(Proceed with caution! The title says it all. Jasmine)
Wheeler Walker, Jr. is the outlaw persona comedian Ben Hoffman created once he was left without a job following the cancellation of his Comedy Central program The Ben Show. Part Waylon, part Hank Jr., WWJ is an unabashed throwback, so it’s only fitting that fellow ’70s country devotee Sturgill Simpson was instrumental in getting Redneck Shit off the ground, teaming Hoffman with Dave Cobb, a producer who helps give Redneck Shit the shape of a real record. It’s not dissimilar to the trick Ween and producer Ben Vaughn pulled off 20 years earlier with 12 Golden Country Greats, where the New Hope duo holed up with Nashville cats to create an authentic-sounding salute to the golden age of the Music City, but Ween were always musicians first. Hoffman is a comedian and not a subtle one at that, either. Using David Allan Coe‘s infamous underground party records as a template, Hoffman loads up Redneck Shit with songs about f******, spitting out every filthy permutation that crosses his mind. The surprises come not in the words — sooner or later, WWJ challenges someone to suck his d*** and, as Bryan Ferry once sang, you can guess the rest — but the music, which ranges from back-porch singalongs to ZZ Top boogies but usually consists of straight-down-the-middle amped-up, revved-up outlaw ravers. If Hoffman had followed the lead of his music and bothered to write about anything other than screwing — maybe guns, God, or even Walmart — the record wouldn’t be such a bore, but instead it’s just sneering condescension, an obvious joke from a guy who thinks he’s better than all y’all.
While everyone was (rightly) heaping praise and celebrating Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, another great country album came out that same week. And that album was Matt Woods’ With Love From Brushy Mountain. Thanks again to Trigger from Saving Country Music for pointing out another great country music artist to me. I had never heard of Woods before and I regretted that once I gave a listen to his latest album. If you love Simpson, you’re going to love Matt Woods too. After you take a listen to With Love From Brushy Mountain (the name comes from an old prison), the song that will immediately stand out amongst the rest is “Deadman’s Blues.” This song was released as a single last year, but it was completely new to me. “Deadman’s Blue” is one of the best country songs I’ve heard in recent years. The song is about loneliness, failed relationships and being your own prisoner, which is the overall theme of the album. Woods shows such great, raw emotion in this song. He does this by slowly raising his voice throughout the song. In the beginning he’s somber and reflective and then it builds into frustrating realization. Lyrically it’s perfect. The best line to me is when he says he’s “a first place loser and a last place friend,” which perfectly describes the man’s pain in the song. If you don’t feel like listening to the whole album, at least listen to this song.