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Sunday, November 19, 2017

ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
November 19, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I'm not keeping track, but I think we break a minor record here, playing a full four (4) singles with no discernible connection to an album project.  And, as the attention span of music listeners dwindles, folks are more single-centric than ever.  For my part, I'm still a definite album guy.  In other news, I'm pretty old.

When Parker McCollum began to set his new songs to tape, the 25 year-old decided to meet the youngsters where they live.  Back in July, he issued four songs as Probably Wrong: Session One, followed by Session Two in September.  Now he's finished two more songs, releasing a proper ten-song Probably Wrong LP as god intended.  No real harm in trying new things.  It's what McCollum does on his new collection, making ear-friendly music whose production owes as much to pop as it does to country.

Let's face facts. There's nothing new about a breakup album, and McCollum's probably not the first country type to tell you how hard life can be on the road.  But you're probably wrong if you think Probably Wrong sounds like every other breakup CD out there.  With producer Lloyd Maines, McCollum has built a record that sounds beautiful and captivating from the edge of one headphone to the far reaches of the other.

While King of Everything Maines participated on Parker McCollum's debut, 2015's promising Limestone Kid, songs like "Learn to Fly" or "Memphis Rain" are more energized and brighter than anything on that first collection.  From the singer's soulful vocal delivery to the perfectly polished full band arrangements, Probably Wrong more than realizes the promise of those earlier songs.

With "Lucy" and "Meet You in the Middle", Limestone Kid introduced listeners to an unexpectedly skilled songwriter.  While Probably Wrong is a more eclectic collection, the spirit and the fire behind the project make this a different animal entirely.  "Memphis Rain" blazes behind a propulsive beat and sizzling electric guitar, finding resolution in a free range solo.  "Learn to Fly" bounces like a lost song from Robert Earl Keen's Gringo's Honeymoon, adding pedal steel and keys to the mix.  Add these cuts and "The Truth" to your road trip playlist at your earliest opportunity.

But let's not forget that McCollum has written some real sad songs about hard times and how long distances make the heart grow restless.  On the anthemic ballad "I Can't Breathe", he repeats, I'm on the road missing home / Missing the road while I'm home ...  Trust is at a low point, even as the singer recognizes that the stage is where he belongs.  From "Misunderstood": Late night train back to Austin / Couple cars, cocaine and the interstate / Most every night this is what it's like / You don't answer, I keep calling just to stay awake ...

The stories are hard hitting and personal.  The music is remarkably tight and more wide ranging than almost any other record this year.  "Lonesome Ten Miles" is infectious roots rock, while "Things Are Looking Up" is straight country (with a great extended instrumental outtro).  Get your 'grass from "Blue Eyed Sally", or bathe in the red dirt country of "Memphis Rain".  Probably Wrong is one-stop musical shopping.

While there has been some conversation about the CD's sound and production, I would draw a line between what's calculated and disingenuous and McCollum's smart and carefully considered approach.  Sure, we frequently want music that bears the fingerprints of the people who made it, that still flows with the blood that brought it into being.  Parker McCollum makes music that's human, sings with a deeply soulful voice, and cares about lyrics and communicating from his heart.  Polished or not, you can't get much more human than that.

- Michael Murphey, "Geronimo's Cadillac" Geronimo's Cadillac  (A&M, 72)
- Chris Stapleton, "Up to No Good Livin'" From A Room: Vol. 1  (Mercury, 17)
- Chris Stapleton, "Tryin' to Untangle My Mind" From A Room: Vol. 2  (Mercury, 17)
- Cody Jinks, "Somewhere in the Middle (alt.take)" Less Wise (modified 2017)  (Jinks, 17)
- Anderson East, "King for a Day" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
- First Aid Kit, "Postcard" Ruins  (Columbia, 18)
- I'm With Her, "See You Around" See You Around  (Rounder, 18)  D
- Buddy & Julie Miller, "River's Gonna Run" Buddy & Julie Miller  (Hightone, 01)
- Drive-by Truckers, "Perilous Night" single  (ATO, 17)
- Wilco, "Dynamite My Soul" Being There (deluxe edition)  (Reprise, 17)
- Porter & Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, "Go On and Leave Me" Don't Go Baby ...  (Cornelius Chapel, 17)
^ Parker McCollum, "I Can't Breathe" Probably Wrong  (McCollum, 17)
- Jeffrey Martin, "Billy Burroughs" One Go Around  (Fluff & Gravy, 17)
- Mapache, "Chico River" Mapache  (Spiritual Pajamas, 17)
- Flat Duo Jets, "My Life My Love" Wild Wild Love  (Daniel 13, 17)
- Ryan Bingham, "Dylan's Hard Rain" Roadhouse Sun  (Lost Hwy, 09)
- Derek Hoke, "Destination Unknown" Bring the Flood  (Little Hollywood, 17)
- Mavis Staples, "Ain't No Doubt About It" If All I Was Was Black  (Anti, 17)
- Wood Brothers, "River Takes the Town" One Drop of Truth  (Honey Jar, 18)  D
- Turnpike Troubadours, "Oklahoma Stars" Long Way From Your Heart  (Bossier City, 17)
- Leif Vollebekk, "Tallahassee" single  (Secret City, 17)
- Fernando Viciconte, "9ft Wall" Widows (reissue)  (Domingo, 17)
- Bermuda Triangle, "Rosey" single  (Bermuda, 17)
- Otis Gibbs, "Darker Side of Me" Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth  (Wanamaker, 14)
- Anna Tivel, "Small Believer" Small Believer  (Fluff & Gravy, 17)
- Ron Pope, "Work" Work  (Brooklyn Basement, 17)
- Tommy Emmanuel, "Borderline (w/Amanda Shires)" Accomplice One  (CGP Sounds, 18)  D
- Frazey Ford, "When We Get By" single  (Arts & Crafts, 17)
- Scott H Biram, "Just Another River" Bad Ingredients  (Bloodshot, 11)
- Maria McKee, "Life is Sweet" Life is Sweet  (Geffen, 96)

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