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

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

 12 March 2020



At 19 tracks and close to an hour-and-a-half of music, James Hyland’s latest, Western, is a pretty big commitment for the casual listener. The concept album about the transcontinental railroad is an admittedly intimidating listen at first, but for the most part, it pays off.

What makes Western so appealing, besides Hyland’s fun laid back twangy delivery and knack for writing great character-driven songs, is that rather than stick to one timeline (the early 1900s when the highway system was first being built… ZZZZZZZZZ) he spans generations, using the geography as his consistent. 

The album starts off a little slow, with his focus on a Texas Ranger, the Comanches, and early railroad tycoons, but about halfway through the record, as Hyland starts making his way to more modern times, like struggles of Nashville musicians (“Nashville Song,”) and the slyly hilarious portrait of the Mullet family (“The Ballad of Eddie Mullet”), his knack for songwriting really starts to take the focus. The latter was originally an early 2000 song by Hyland’s old group the South Austin Jug Band. Though still a solid song despite who’s performing it, this newer version is a little more stripped down and immediate, giving it an even harder punch. Elsewhere, on “Swing it Your Way,” Hyland blends flawless Texas swing with a story about Mormon women being among the first of their gender to get the right to vote.  

Far from being a pretentious exercise as, let’s face it, many concept albums end up being, Western is a compelling look at a wide swath of the American West. It manages to be both musically diverse and, at times, wildly entertaining. There are a few tracks here that probably could have been left behind for a more consistent feel, but for the most part, Western is a brilliant showcase of Hyland’s talent as both a songwriter and musician. 



Music Reviewer - John Moore  

John B. Moore has been covering the seemingly disparate, but surprisingly complimentary genres of Americana and punk rock for the past 20 years.

Blurt/New Noise Magazine/InSite Atlanta/NeuFutur Magazine

twitter @jbmoore00

To Read All of John's Reviews, Click Here




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