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

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

25 Month 2020

 

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On James Hyland's new album, Western, he closes his opening track, "The Edge of Comancheria," with the haunting chorus, "It's a wild, wild / It's a wild land." Though the track is a narrative about the history of the Comanche people in Texas, the chorus, at least, could be a mantra for Hyland as he navigates the massive Western, 20 tracks of honest, raw Americana at its absolute finest.
 
Hyland has been traversing the wild land of the music world since releasing 2001's Place I Call Home, and this journey has always found Hyland occupying one of the biggest strongholds for songwriters in the country: Austin, Texas. Nearly two decades into his craft, there's no question he's found his pièce de résistance in Western. Firmly rooted in historical stories of the United States, Hyland utilizes the space of just a few minutes in each song to create unforgettable tales. On "First West Bound Train," he assumes the role of a train engineer in 1869, the year transcontinental travel became possible via railroad. "1869, I'm driving this train / It's the first time one cut west through the plains," he sings. "Hanging out the side engine 116 / Steaming down the line, moving fast and mean / Time's gonna change at the pace of a train / The west ain't gonna be the same."
 
On "Texas Ranger," he gives attention to, as you might guess, several Texas Rangers, and he succinctly and eloquently describes their duty: "You got your picture on a wanted sign / Guilty or not, now that thought never crossed my mind." In "Top Floor," he tells the story of a Civil War soldier who finds new life as a pianist in a brothel, drawn from the Grateful Dead's "Peggy O," and he seems to continue the story a few tracks later in "Full Moon."
 
It's not all historical takes on Western, though. One of the standouts of the record comes in the form of a good ol' fashioned honky tonk, "Don't Feel Like Cryin'." Though it may not be steeped in the stories of bygone days, it perfectly showcases Hyland's immense songwriting talent. "Well I’m a real rolling stone, yeah, I got me a sign," he wryly states. "It says if you love me, you'd better leave me behind."
 
Western is full of unforgettable stories and pristine musicianship from Hyland and an impressive cast of characters, including Kim Deschamps on pedal steel, Johnny Moeller on electric guitar, Kevin Smith on bass, Warren Hood on fiddle and mandolin, and Robb Kidd on all things percussion. Together, they've put together a timeless Americana LP that will stand the test of time for decades, maybe centuries, to come.
 
On closing track "STFU," Hyland takes aim at a more contemporary character, namely politicians who seem to talk more than act. "Shut the fuck up," he blatantly complains, adding, "Put a joint in your hand / Dude shut up, for love of God, man, give it up / I can't hear the band." For anyone who's drowning out Hyland and his band as they roam this wild, wild land, we concur: Shut up and let Western ring loudly and proudly across the plains. 

 

Music Reviewer - Chuck ArmstrongFor as long as he can remember, Chuck has been crazy about rock and roll. His first concert was Def Leppard at the age of 6 - and the rest, as they say, is history. He's been on-air for one of the biggest rock radio stations in the country (you can call him F 'Em Up Chuck) and now he's enjoying life living in New York City. Keep on rockin' in the free world!

Read More: Chuck Armstrong - The Boot

To Read All of Chuck's Reviews, Click Here

 


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