By Helen Jerome
If you’re craving some sweet country authenticity, then this young Texan six-piece might be exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’re craving some sweet country authenticity, then this young Texan six-piece might be exactly what you’re looking for. With Welcome to Countryland, thee band, fronted by lead songwriter Cleto Cordero, deliver a bumper 14 tracks from their sessions in Nashville, produced by Jake Gear.
The celebratory mood created on this album manages to sound both nostalgic and modern, thanks to the care and attention of Cordero and Co. The one track he hasn’t composed, ‘A Cowboy Knows How’ – penned by superstar writing trio Luke Combs, Dan Isbell and Jonathan Singleton – encapsulates the eternal picture of the Texan loner, conjuring up the romantic image of a cowboy stumbling in drunk, clutching a fistful of wild flowers and listening to jukebox heartbreak songs.
On ‘…Meantime’, Cordero co-writes with Lainey Wilson and duets with Hailey Whitters; an echoey intro bursting into a lavish helping of contemplation, Whitters’ voice giving an extra edge to the old-timey warmth of the organ, fiddle and steel. When duetting with his wife on ‘Life Without You’, Cordero takes a walk on the dingy side of town, thinking maudlin thoughts while Jason Albers’ drums and Wesley Hall’s fiddle crack on, around lovely mandolin decoration from Adam Gallegos.
They set out their stall on opening track ‘Country Is…’ with delicious twangy arrangement, an almost tongue-in-cheek definition of country music, while Gallegos plucks banjo in the background. On ‘Well Spent Time’, Cordero makes a bold declaration of making a memory with his gal, his heart fluttering as he worries about expressing himself in clichés - cheap wine, a second-hand dress, sunsets and mason jars.
‘No Ace In The Hole’ lets them really flex and strut their stuff, with Reid Dillon’s menacing electric guitar pushing them closer into rock and roll territory. On the other hand, ‘Dancin’ Around A Fire’ foregrounds eerie violin scraping under acoustic guitar, on this keening, yearning, haunting song, with the fatalistic feeling of being close to going down in flames, as the electric guitar buzzes.
The band also cover sepia-tinged romance in lyrics and arrangements on single ‘Some Things Never Change’ and ‘Getting’ By’, an eternal story of just about managing and striving to be a good man, buoyed up by friends and love. The wistful harmonica of Jim Hoke, guesting on ‘It’s Good To Be Back (Round Here Again)’ and ‘Tilt Your Chair Back’ help to anchor these thoughtful explorations of hometown and roots in simpler, authentic territory, with the latter also featuring irresistible steel guitar from Spencer Cullum.
Throughout this impressive record, the band feel tight and together. They may have been around for a decade, but this album shows they’re definitely ones to watch – and to catch live.
Welcome to Countryland is out on Friday 7/2