“‘Pull String to Inflate’ sort of uses the metaphor of a life raft because right now it feels like the world is sinking,” Corne told us. “I think the song is really summed up in the lyric ‘It seems like the future is running a little late. I’m driving backwards through a different day. Pull string to inflate’.”
1. Mad World
2. Ridin’ With Lady Luck (Feat. Walter Trout)
4. The Gilded Age
5. Short Wave Preachers
6. Pull String To Inflate
7. History Repeats
8. The Distance You Run
9. Forbidden Town
10. Ashen Heart
11. Trail Full Of Tears
12. Sing, Little Darlin’ Sing
Eric Corne’s new album Happy Songs for the Apocalypse is a patchwork of Americana; drawing on folk, blues and rock n’ roll with tinges of alt country. Lyrically, the album is an indictment of a world careening into a second gilded age, numbed by new technologies and the false hope of materialism. “It seems the future’s running a little late/and I’m driving backwards through a different day,” sings Corne on “Pull String to Inflate.” The song features lead guitar by long-time Mavis Staples axman, Rick Holmstrom, one of many top-shelf sidemen Corne calls on to animate this ambitious collection of songs.
Founder and President of Forty Below Records, Corne is an award winning producer/engineer and songwriter with over a half dozen top 5 Billboard Blues albums to his credit, including a recent #1 for Walter Trout’s duets album, We’re All in This Together. Corne’s resume also includes recording the likes of John Mayall, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, C.J. Chenier, Kim Deal (The Pixies), Glen Campbell, Lucinda Williams, Nancy Wilson (Heart), Joe Bonamassa, John Doe (X), Michelle Shocked, and Devotchka.
Corne and lead singer, Nick Urata developed a friendship when Corne engineered parts of DeVotchKa’s A Mad and Faithful Telling. Urata later tapped Corne to engineer several of his film scores, including Crazy Stupid Love and I Love You Phillip Morris. Urata returned the favor, singing on two songs for Corne’s Kid Dynamite & the Common Man (“One of the year’s most dramatic debuts!” – Blurt Magazine), including “Trampolines” which played in an episode of HBO’s True Blood.
Sonically, Happy Songs for the Apocalypse is a vibrant production, brimming with horns, violins, tack piano, pedal steel, dulcimer, accordion, harmonica and Theremin. Emotionally it runs the gamut, one moment reveling in heartache “Take this Ashen Heart and sweep it to the wind. I know it will never beat again.” The next, flush with optimism: “I’ve got a notion that they can’t kill/There ain’t no potion/There ain’t no pill/Like a Locomotion, you can’t sit still on a wave.”
The album begins with “Mad World”, a slice of cosmic folk and the image of a world in cardiac arrest, “If we stumble, if we fall/find our backs against the wall/revolution of the world begins to stall.” Then, pivots with “Ridin’ with Lady Luck”, an alt blues rocker that features blues legend Walter Trout (John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat) on lead guitar, trading with Corne’s distorted harmonica. “Trail Full of Tears” sets a lush horn arrangement by Corne and David Ralicke (Dengue Fever, Beck) against a stark rhythm section, reminiscent of Tom Waits “In the Neighborhood”. In “Short Wave Preachers” Corne calls out politicians for their role in America’s growing corporatocracy, protesting “Joan of Arc doesn’t live here any more/just leaders looking for pay.”
Also featured on the album is former Bob Dylan/k.d. lang guitarist Freddy Koella on fiddle, My Morning Jacket keyboardist Bo Koster, Fitz & the Tantrums bassist Joe Karnes, multi instrumentalist Nick Luca (Calexico, Iron & Wine), Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams) on dobro, Skip Edwards (Dwight Yoakam) on keys and pedal steel, drummers Blair Sinta (Alanis Morissette, James Blunt) and Matt Tecu (Cat Power, Jakob Dylan) and two mainstays of Corne’s productions, guitarist Eamon Ryland and keyboardist Sasha Smith.
Some of the talented young artists Corne is working with at Forty Below Records include breakout country artists Jaime Wyatt and Sam Morrow.
A prolific songwriter, Corne has written songs with Walter Trout, Sam Morrow and Karen Lovely, writing the majority of her critically acclaimed album Fish Outta Water, including the chart topping title track.
In 2014, Corne signed classic rock luminary and Blues Hall of Fame member John Mayall to Forty Below Records, producing three studio albums together and currently working on a fourth. In addition, Corne re-mastered and released two archive Bluesbreakers albums Live in 1967 Volumes I and II, which featured the original members of Fleetwood Mac.
With several new productions in the works, Corne doesn’t expect to tour extensively but he does plan to play some select dates over the next year.
Couldn’t resist the temptation to copy/paste this cracker of a review.
So here we go again. Another new Jason Aldean album, and another machine gunning of blistering arena rock guitars, braggadocios rural boy aphorisms, self-aggrandizing affirmations of what a badass he is, with very little substance or sincerity delivered between the lines to find enriching. For 15 songs it is relentless, with one of the few saving graces being that no single track stretches over 3 1/2 minutes, and once you’ve heard one, you’ve pretty much heard them all so you can skip around. One after another, it’s low-pitched verses about how hard or badass it is being from the country, leading into doubled up choruses that rise as predictably as the sun into massive Richie Sambora-style cacophonous lyrical and sonic platitudes.
Among other fair criticisms, Jason Aldean has turned in a record that challenges the once thought unattainable achievement of matching Chris Young for the most formulaic and creatively-static “country” music release in history. The guitars are loud, and the drums are punishing, one song after another. At this point, a Jason Aldean record is little more than a collection of new material for him to parade out at live arena shows. Want to know why rock is dead? It’s not just because acts like Limp Bizkit and Nickelback killed it. It’s because Jason Aldean and other arena rockers posing as country acts infiltrated the space, corporatizing and homogenizing it for Music Row’s devices.
Jason Aldean fans don’t listen to records as cohesive works encapsulating the creative muse an artist is immersed in at a given point in his or her career. It’s basically a merch play to hopefully get autographed, and a way to catalog the current radio singles. One new wrinkle to the material on Rearview Town is that Jason Aldean now has taken electronic drum beats and other digitally-produced enhancements and interwoven them with the live instrumentation. The rock drums are still there, but to keep up with mainstream country trends, they add in computerized ticks for that additional over-the-top texturing and busy-ness. It’s all just a mash of sounds coming at you, including in some songs these strange feminine (or synthesized) sighs and calls like something you would hear in the soundtrack of a 90’s-era war strategy RPG or 1st-person shooter game. Jason Aldean is the Vin Diesel of music.
And to top it all off, Aldean also re-introduces the always-polarizing element of rapping in certain songs. The purveyor of the first mainstream country rap hit “Dirt Road Anthem” returns to this approach in what will likely be a radio single, “Gettin’ Warmed Up,” and in other places.
But let’s also give Jason Aldean some due credit. One of the reasons he’s so consistent throughout this record and throughout his career is because he knows what he does well, and sticks to his guns. And yes, he does do what he sets out to accomplish very well. You listen to a Jason Aldean record or see him in concert, the blood will get pumping. He’s singing to the “work hard, play hard” crowd who busts their ass at jobs they hate all week, and want artists like Jason Aldean to help them unwind and swell with pride, and he delivers.
The other consistency in Aldean’s career is his slightly deeper understanding of the rural dwelling condition compared to some of his other pop country contemporaries. Where others love to portray country towns as a Candyland of bonfires, beer, and babes hanging out by the lake all day, Aldean often speaks to the forgotten nature of America’s farm towns, and the hard-fought pride furrowing the brow of the blue collar worker. In the title track of Rearview Town written by Kelley Lovelace, Bobby Pinson, and Neil Thrasher, Aldean sings of a frustrated rural dweller, heartbroken and out of dreams, not just demoralized by the disappearance of his hometown, but further depressed that he’s helping the statistical slide by deciding to leave himself.
Shoving the incredible amount of filler on this record aside, “Rearview Town” is one of a few more interesting moments on this record. So is the first single “You Make It Easy.” It also bucks the trend of sameness with its 6/8 timing, even though the lyrics are pretty stock. “Better At Being Who I Am” written by Casey Beathard, Wendell Mobley, and Neil Thrasher also speaks to something deeper, and something relevant to this record, to Aldean’s life, and to the pressures he’s facing through busybody journalists to speak out about certain things since it was he who was on the stage when the Harvest 91 Festival massacre took place in Las Vegas.
Jason Aldean may be as shallow as a kiddie pool, but it’s hard to portray him as not authentic to himself. And though his consistency is definitely a curse on this record and the creative assessment of his career, it’s also the reason Aldean has found commercial success, and a connection with his fans. They don’t want him out there crying crocodile tears, they want him helping them forget the problems of today for an hour or two, and to help recharge the batteries for another hard fought week.
Another point of intrigue on the record is Aldean’s duet with Miranda Lambert, “Drowns The Whiskey.” Though it might be a slight step up for Jason Aldean, and maybe not the slide some Miranda fans were worried about when it was first announced, the song is still an electronic drums-driven mid-tempo formulaic effort easy to forget, despite the steel guitar. How many times has this song’s theme been done, both in the mainstream and in independent circles? At least Aldean is dueting with a woman in country as opposed to using the opportunity to highlight a pop star like many of his country radio buddies.
Where some recent radio singles from mainstream stars have been a pleasant surprise, including Jason Aldean’s okay “You Make It Easy,” and some recent mainstream albums are at least showing a step in the right direction, you get just about what you expect from Aldean on Rearview Town, with the dogged consistency possibly being the most remarkable wrinkle. Rearview Town would be disappointing if you expected more from him, but you don’t. Because if we’ve learned anything over the years that you can count on, it’s Jason Aldean to be Jason Aldean.