For once, I am not writing about music I heard on Outlaw Country. In fact, I am calling out my favorite DJ Mojo Nixon for not playing this album. I thought Mojo was keeping me up to date on all the best new country music, but I haven't heard one song by Sons Of Bill on his show. What's a matter with you, Mojo? You missed this one big time.
I am also actually writing about new music for a change. This album was released at the end of June and Sons Of Bill are a relatively newly minted band, having been formed in 2005. Don't tell my good wife that I am listening to music that was recorded after 1966, she will fall on the ground like a Saratoga no-step. I want to listen to new music, but I don't often hear any that is worth listening to.
I received the audio files of One Town Away from their management about a month ago (Ah, the glamorous life of a blogger). Since then I have been playing nothing else. It is the best new album I have heard this year or maybe in many years. The sound is fresh and the lyrics are excellent. It is a pleasure to hear a new band with real talent take the southern rock/country genre and kick it into the modern age.
Sons Of Bill are the three Wilson brothers from Virginia. Their father, who is a professor of theology at the University of Virginia, exposed the brothers to roots and country music at an early age. After a series of diverse musical experiences that included heavy metal, college bars and jazz clubs, the boys come together to form Sons Of Bill in 2005. These diverse musical influences mix well together on this record. Sam and James handle vocals and guitars and Abe is on the keyboards. In addition to the brothers, Seth Green is on bass and Brian Caputo is behind the drums.
James wrote most of the songs on the album. In his songwriting, I hear influences of Townes Van Zandt, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, The Band, Jamey Johnson as well as many of the classic country songwriters of the previous generation. Taking simple events in southern life, he paints vivid pictures with these songs. He has listened carefully to classic country songs and used these influences well.
Recorded under the direction of Tom Petty producer Jim Scott, One Town Away blends the bands alt-country/southern roots music with a little bit of Tom Petty guitar based rock and roll. The result is a sound that is modern but also salutes the best of traditional music.
There isn't a bad track on One Town Away. I want to point out some of the musical highlights. The album kicks off with Joey's Arm which addresses life in the modern South and the current meth problem with some insightful lyrics: The South ain't going to rise again/But we are holding out for Jesus/Or so they say on AM radio. The song is different from today's Nashville country music, because it speaks to the dark and dirty side of life not just the usual cliches. Kenny Chesney will not be covering this song anytime soon. It is very well written and played. A good opener for the disk.
The next song Broken Bottles is a great modern drinking song that contains the catchy lyric:
Hank Williams might have been a love sick drinker
but being a love sick drunk doesn't make you Hank
I like the fact that the band gives a nod to some of the greats of the past. They even mention my favorite Townes Van Zandt in So Much for the Blues.
Rock and Roll mixes the band's Alt- country with some great Petty organ and guitar sound. It is the rocker on the album and the band sounds like they are having a great time playing it. Have a listen:
Charleston is more reflective and sounds a bit like a Charlie Robison song to my ear. It is a slower, reflective tune about love and loss that shows off the versatility of the band. It has nice steel guitar playing on it as well.
The Song Is All That Remains reminds me of a Jamey Johnson song. If you have been reading this blog, you know that isn't a bad thing. It is about life on the road for a musician and speaks from the heart. Very mellow and a nice way to close the album.
From what I have read, Sons Of Bill are a great live act as well. I am looking forward to catching a show when they come to Texas. Do your ears a favor and pick up this album. You will not be disappointed. Available on iTunes and from Amazon. Highly recommended.