We are all thrilled by the phenomenal success of Chris Stapleton’s career which is clearly based upon his amazing talent, humility and song writing, but it all began for him when ‘Traveller’ was released last year.
The man who produced that album, Dave Cobb, has now enlisted the support of artists that he has previously worked with and artists with “southern roots” to create a concept album focused on themes of family and southern experiences.
We have previously highlighted the Zac Brown track ‘Grandma’s Garden’ which is included here alongside other big hitters Miranda Lambert, Jason Isbell, Brandy Clark and the Stapletons. Or rather more accurately, Morgane Stapleton who performs the cover of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ that was featured at this year’s C2C appearance.
It’s perhaps the lesser known artists however that deserve our consideration. Brent Cobb’s ‘Down Home’ is certainly a stand out. Brent is a relative of Dave’s but they only recently became acquainted with each other.
Brent is not included solely because of his family connection. He is an accomplished songwriter in his own right. He wrote ‘Tailgate Blues’ for Luke Bryan, ‘Grandpa’s Farm’ for David Nail and ‘Pavement Ends’ for Little Big Town. We are expecting a new album from Brent Cobb later this year.
Holly Williams’ ‘Settle Down’ is an all too short affair, coming in at just short of two and half minutes. It’s a delightful foot tapper that you might want to play on repeat. We have not been treated to new music from Holly (Hank’s granddaughter) since her ‘Highway’ album was released in 2013.
Cobb was recently asked about the selection process for the album and stated that it was all about the voices. “When I heard Chris Stapleton sing the first time, like, my god, you know that’s good, you know that it’s right. Same thing with Anderson East or Sturgill Simpson. You hear these people, they have such distinct voices, and I think that’s what I’m attracted to the most”
John Paul White opens the album with ‘Simple Song’. White was a member of The Civil Wars, who won a Grammy Award in 2011 for the album ‘Barton Hollow’. He is another artist who hasn’t released anything commercially for at least 3 years. ‘Simple Song’ is, as you would expect, a stripped down guitar-strumming tune that creates visions of a steamy, front porch performance.
It sets the scene for the album. The setting is the South and this is where the artists hail from. Unless you have roots in this area it’s impossible to relate to the cultural overtones that pervade the collection of songs available here. We are considering the collection from a UK perspective but can still appreciate the “family” feel that the album conveys. You don’t have to hail from southern USA to appreciate the quality of this work.
Jason Isbell is beginning to make a name for himself on these shores. He is becoming a regular visitor and his contribution here is a stand out track. ‘God Is A Working Man’ is a masterpiece. Country music should be about creating stories about families, loved ones and life’s experiences and there is no better example than this tale’s “hail to the working man”.
Of the more commercially successful artists, Miranda’s ‘Sweet By And By’ is mid-tempo and rather more stripped back than her usual output. We are due a new Miranda album soon and I hope that she maintains this more “country” feel.
Zac’s contribution “Grandma’s Garden” is reminiscent of Zac Brown Band’s earlier output. You can imagine it appearing on ‘The Foundation’ album and personally I would be very happy if Cobb was on board to produce Zac’s next album.
The quality extends across all 12 tracks and everyone will have their favourites. Morgane’s duet with Chris Stapleton on the iconic ‘You Are My Sunshine’ will be a stand-out for many and clearly shows that the talent in the family isn’t exclusively male dominated.
However, Brandy Clark’s ‘I Cried’ is the ‘go to’ track. Her song writing genius was amply demonstrated on her ‘12 Stories’ album and we have another example here. Her range is stretched to the absolute limits on an emotion-filled tale about a grandmother coping with the immense loss of her husband. It’s a masterpiece.
The album closes with Rich Robinson’s ‘The Way Home’. If you wanted to create a vision of life in the south this would be the soundtrack.
This is a fine compilation album. It’s a southern based concept album but first and foremost it’s a country album encompassing everything that the genre stands for.
Dave Cobb is a highly respected Nashville country music producer and his reputation will be further enhanced by this album.
John Paul White – Simple Song
Jason Isbell – God Is A Working Man
Brent Cobb – Down Home
Miranda Lambert – Sweet By and By
Morgane Stapleton – You Are My Sunshine
Zac Brown – Grandma’s Garden
Jamey Johnson – Mama’s Table
Anderson East – Learning
Holly Williams – Settle Down
Brandy Clark – I Cried
Shooter Jennings – Can You Come Over
Rich Robinson – The Way Home