Album Review

Drayton Farley - Twenty on High

A terrific addition to the Americana family, Drayton Farley nudges the genre along different, often darker paths.

Holler Country Music
March 2, 2023 3:48 pm GMT

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Drayton Farley - Twenty on High

Label: Hargrove Records / Thirty Tigers

Release Date: 3/3/23

Producer: Sadler Vaden

Tracklisting:

1. Stop the Clock
2. Norfolk Blues
3. Wasted Youth
4. Above My Head
5. Twenty on High
6. Something Wrong (Inside My Head)
7. Devil’s in NOLA
8. How to Feel Again
9. The Alabama Moon
10. All My Yesterdays Have

He may have arrived late to the Americana party, but Alabama native Drayton Farley is now a man fully immersed in the genre. His snarly, gnarly country rock echoes his idols Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Tyler Childers, and adds a generous helping of blue-collar autobiographical angst.

Produced by Sadler Vaden in Nashville, this latest album has 10 songs of hope pushing back against self-doubt – and vice versa – wrapped in a nostalgic glow.

With more than a nod to Auden’s famous poem ‘Funeral Blues’, Drayton Farley is steeped in sepia-tinged longing for old times in ‘Stop the Clock’. And his aching nostalgia for those better days when he was growing up is matched by a great warm enveloping sound. He gets more declamatory in ‘Norfolk Blues’, worn down by tough times, documenting the grinding, everyday toil of the working man, reminiscent of early Springsteen.

His mellower melodies match ‘Wasted Youth’ and ‘Above My Head’, the former with its quiet acoustic beginning and organ and steel drifting elegantly above. Again, he’s full of regrets, lost freedom and getting by on less and less. The latter is contemplative and fearful of commitment, keyboard building throughout as guitars wind their way around the melody.

Halfway through this album Farley fully embraces the nihilistic focus of Elliott Smith, first with ‘Twenty on High’, crammed with chiming, ringing guitars, the singer wishing for escape, but facing nothingness. Then ‘Something Wrong (Inside My Head)’ has the anguish and self-doubt of Smith, crafting something autobiographical, as the trippy organ sits upfront. Further showing his range in songwriting and genres, ‘Devil's in NOLA’ has jaunty sizzling fiddle to accompany his story of temptation, and ‘How to Feel Again’ is closer to the epic, Irish folk-rock of Declan O’Rourke.

Acknowledging his enduring love and longing for his home state, ‘The Alabama Moon’ hits the sweet spot when he’s joined by guest vocalist, Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, giving instant warmth. It’s the perfect set-up before he closes with the stripped down ‘All My Yesterdays Have Passed’. The singer knows the darkness cannot last, but everything feels broken. As his jealous heart and nervous fear build, he tries to find hope, expressed with just his quiet voice and single guitar.

A terrific addition to the Americana family, Drayton Farley nudges the genre along different, often darker paths.

7.5/10

Twenty on High is out on Friday 3rd March via Hargrove Records / Thirty Tigers

Written by Helen Jerome
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