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Music Review - `Western` by James Hyland (lz)

James Hyland -- Western   (click on image to watch video)

 27 February 2020



James Hyland is a seasoned singer/songwriter from Austin, Texas who sings from a knowledge perspective. It’s evident in his sometimes sinewy vocals and the evocative emotions embedded in his songs. He’s also prone to convey a certain cynicism that’s well suited for these tempestuous times. His latest album, simply titled Western, mostly stays true to that tact and helps center a sprawling set of songs based around a loose frontier theme. His skepticism is evident in several of the more auspicious offerings — “The Edge of Comancheria,” “Texas Ranger,” “Today’s a Good Day to Die” and “White Men in the Black Hills” specifically — but even when he recalls the desperation and despair that accompanied this nation’s western expansion, there’s more resolve than resignation, indicating that Hyland himself is determined to pursue his own passions without deferring to whatever scenario that might have occurred before.

“I’ve got the lights in the dashboard to calm me down,” he sings on the telling “Dark and Weary World,” a song that speaks to the plight of those drawn to the far reaches of the horizon without ever really knowing what awaits them once they arrive. Naturally, there’s a certain amount of melancholia entwined with these tenacious tomes, an element that’s especially evident on the lonely lament “Hill Country Nights,” a track that finds Hyland seemingly at his most vulnerable. Likewise, the rambling “Nashville Song,” an off-kilter ode to the sounds associated with that city of the same name, lightens the mood and suggests there are some sunshine and sway within his musings as well. “The Ballad of Eddie Mullet” follows suit, a breezy ramble of a tune that effectively diminishes some of the menace associated with the stereotypical Wild West outlaw. And when Hyland settles into a sweet serenade like “Weather on the Wood,” it’s easy to forget any of those antagonistic intents that may have occurred earlier.

Ultimately, as the album draws to an end, the mood lightens considerably. With a generous 19 songs in all, Western suggests that Hyland is more the tireless troubadour than an angry insurgent.  Hopefully then, Western points a way forward.


 Lee Zimmerman


Lee Zimmerman

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