Usually when you think of beach songs, margarita-infused numbers from the likes of Jimmy Buffett or Kenny Chesney come to mind. For Austin bluegrass band Wood & Wire, though, the beach conjures different images. “The Sea Wall,” off their latest album The Coast, tells a darker tale about beaches, one fraught with hurricanes, erosion and the wrath of mother nature.
“Here’s a less traditional sounding tune from the album written about the Sea Wall in Galveston, TX, that was built as a result of The Storm of 1900, one of the deadliest hurricanes of all time,” the band tells The BGS. “It’s also about the rising tides and shrinking beaches in the area.
“Over my lifetime, I’ve seen the beach get smaller and smaller and seen homes in the area succumb to beach erosion. I wanted the tune to feel intense and interesting, with non-conventional chords and harmonies that evoked certain emotions. Trevor and Dom really helped me come up with a cool arrangement to make that happen”
The knockout vocals of Charly Lowry make Dark Water Rising’s soulful roots tunes worthy of attention; the tasteful arrangements and alluring harmonies increase the allure. Banjoist Hank Smith and fiddler Lindsey Tims teamed last October to release Impulse, a masterful collection of classical-Americana crossover and progressive bluegrass instrumentals. Georgia trio Crying Wolf mark modern folk with punchy flatpicking and pretty co-ed harmonies. Raleigh’s Chris Hendricks adds pop rock.
Dwight Yoakam recalibrated his career with 2012’s 3 Pears, returning to his former home of Warner and reconnecting to the nerviness of his first albums. With Second Hand Heart, Yoakam continues this unfussy revival, sharpening his attack so the record breezes by at a crisp, crackling clip. Once again, he’s reviving himself through reconnecting the past but what gives Second Hand Heart life is specificity, both in its songs and sound. The former is what makes the greatest initial impression, as it seems as if he’s synthesized all the big Capitol Records acts of 1966 into one bright, ringing sound. To be sure, there’s a fair amount of Bakersfield here, especially apparent on the loping drawl of “Off Your Mind” and the crackerjack rockabilly of “The Big Time,” but the Beatles loom even larger than Buck Owens, surfacing in the chiming 12-strings of “Believe” and harmonies of “She” and evident in the general spirit of adventure that fuels Second Hand Heart. Some of Dwight’s tricks are familiar — the jet propulsion of “Man of Constant Sorrow” borrows a page from the glory days of cowpunk — but his execution is precise and he never lets the record settle in one groove for too long, not even when he tears through “Sorrow,” “Liar,” and “The Big Time” at a breakneck pace. Such sequencing gives Second Hand Heart momentum but what lasts are the songs, a collection of ten tunes — all originals save the standard “Sorrow” and the sweet denouement “V’s of Birds” — that are sturdy yet sly, their hooks sinking into the subconscious without ever drawing attention to themselves. All this means is that Second Hand Heart is prime Dwight Yoakam: traditional yet modern, flashy yet modest, a record that feels fresh but also like a forgotten classic.