If you are ever in your what-were-you-thinking mind, looking for today’s country music to sound like say, Conway Twitty (and his Twitty Birds), Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Marty Robbins, Faron Young, Merle Haggard, or even Willie Nelson, you are in for a world of disappointment. The mental anguish will be palpable!
So, what’s a modern, informed music lover to do? Enter Sarah Shook & The Disarmers with their new release of Sidelong on Bloodshot Records. Originally independently released in 2015, this new release shines brightly in a sea of wannabes. Friends, this ain’t your daddy’s country music. This is Loretta Lynn Meets The Clash Meets Brian Setzer. The lyrics are authentic because most of us have lived them at one time or another, and we are immediately taken back to that time and place in our own lives.
This album is a great look at dealing with the human condition and how it affects the spirit. “The Nail” is a rockabilly-country romp about a relationship headed for the skids, but it just hasn’t died yet. The guitars and back beat are spot on, and Shook’s vocals set everything off perfectly. Make sure that you are upright and breathing if this doesn’t make you smile because we’ve all been here.
“Heal Me” is the most honest and righteous celebration of pain in music since Johnny Cash gathered up Trent Reznor’s tale of pain, “Hurt,” and owned it like he’d lived it, because, he had. “Sidelong” is about dating, being lonesome, and taking chances. Shook sings “Nobody knows me in this place; I’m just another lost and lonesome face.” And later, “I don’t need nobody to set my world on fire. I’d rather die all alone than settle for a liar. If I let myself take a chance on you and step on the wire, I’ll be stepping sidelong…”
In “Misery Without Company” Shook sings “This old world ain’t been kind to me, and no matter how I try, I can’t seem to change my stars.” Basically, a bottle of whiskey is her only friend, but she’s “fixin’ to dry out tomorrow.” Another great track, “Fuck Up” is about seeing how things are and coming to grips with it.
Besides the lyrics being hauntingly honest and true, the music itself is a welcome revelation of exactly how awesome “country” music can be, now, in 2017. The rhythm section is solid, laying down grooves that are infectious, while the dancing guitar lines whisk us up and carry us along with them. Shook’s vocals evoke the best of country artists singing their songs in years past, and add a renewed recognition of our struggles even still today, in dealing with the trials and tribulations of daily living.
This is what country music used to be, and could be again. We want more.
Sidelong by Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
Label: Bloodshot Records – BS 256 LP