Named after the Texas ghost town halfway between their homes, Goodnight, Texas has created an outstanding album that has its roots in traditional folk music with an ear for catchy hooks and memorable stories.
When you turn on A Long Life of Living, get ready for a 40 plus minutes of very well crafted folk music from four guys that really get it. The result of two singer-songwriters (Avi Vinocur from SF and Patrick Dyer Wolf from NC) that you could easily mistake for one brilliant musician, Goodnight, Texas blends the intimate, personal stylings of singer-songwriters and the cathartic stories of love and tragedy that make folk music so great. While these guys are most certainly folk-rock, they have a clear understanding of what makes pop music so infectious, namely catchy music, be it mandolin, banjo, or guitar, or easily relatable lyrics.
From top to bottom, A Long Life of Living is a phenomenal album, one that keep you on your toes with different types of folk music and lyrics that are much deeper than they appear at first. “Car Parts and Linens” is an excellent example of both, with a slow melodic guitar line, great background slide work, and lyrics like “Dreaming on the front porch watching the dogs come home./ heavy on your mind weigh car parts and linens,/ thinkin’ bout the old days when they were young.” One of the real gems of the album is “Harmony”, a song with a title that’s a little misleading. This is a song about the end of love and the use of the word harmony helps bring home the difficulty of admitting “that we just can’t be together anymore.” This version is just Avi Vinocur, but is a really excellent stripped down version of the song.
There are also a trio of really excellent, traditional folk songs on this album that show that, while they understand pop music and how to write a catchy song, they also understand the roots and history of the genre that they belong in. First is “I’m Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm Forever”, a dark, hopeless song about a miserable life spent working on a farm. After what sounds like an angry harmonica solo, the last verse sings of vengeance in a wonderfully poetic verse that begins “I’ve dreamed to myself with no one around,/ Of burning her plantation down to the ground.” Next is “Jesse Got Trapped In a Coal Mine”, a tragic song about a fiance who gets buried alive in a coal mine in West Virginia and the reactions of his bride-to-be. It’s an incredible story and really well done, if horribly sad. Finally, “Railroad”, a song that sounds very much like an instrumental song until about half way through when there are a few call and response lyrics. When the first “Run, run, run from the railroad, when they’re backs are turned” chimes in, it sounds very much like advice yelled to a passenger as the train pulls away. It’s a haunting example of subject matter and tone can impact the emotion behind a song.
In an effort to, very successfully, show that they’re able to produce any kind of folk-rock, “Meet Me By The Smokestack” is a very upbeat, happy love song. “Meet me by the smokestack in Governor’s Square,/ and I’ll show you what it is I do.” It’s a nice change of pace and the vocals in the song are perhaps the best on the album. The last track on the album is “Submarines, a song that shows off both songwriting and musicianship. It’s got a very folksy, banjo and guitar led riff between verses that gets replaced harmonics and quiet banjo riffs during the singing. It’s a very cool song.
With an awesome understanding of what makes folk music so enchanting, Goodnight, Texas has created an album that shows that they can make any kind of folk music. A Long Life of Living is a shining example of how to mix vocals and music, cartharsis and intimate personal stories, tradition and modernity in a genre that rarely sees both.