Let’s not mince words; this is the country album of the year for me.
Brent Cobb is the perfect singer songwriter. He’s a blend of John Denver with a touch of John Fogerty. He’s got a sincerity that reminds me of what people heard in Chris Stapleton last year. He’s the real deal and you can hear it from the opening of the album. Everything from a genuine twang to perfect country phrasing, Cobb’s style is as good as it gets in country music today.
“Solving Problems” opens the track with a feeling that reminds me of Glenn Campbell in his heyday. They rhythm rolls along perfectly, with an easy sincerity that informs a well balanced country song. It leads nicely into “South of Atlanta,” a geographical tune that sounds like it could have come from Woody Guthrie or Willie Nelson by equal parts. It’s a beautiful snapshot of a bygone America, preserved in the romanticized lyrics of a country song. The easy country two-step style is a perfect fit for the “smalltown America” vision of the song.
“The World” is another song with a calm, easy demeanor to it. This one has more of a romantic feel that works really well. The production on the track is perfect. It’s really hard to balance lyrics like Cobb writes without overproducing the songs, but this album really does it well. Cobb even comes across as a class vocalist on “The World,” especially. The poetic lyrics are fitting for a wedding song. It captures the “us against the world” sentiment needed for a strong relationship. Another “salt of the earth” song is “Diggin’ Holes” about digging coal, working the railroad, and other good workin’ man’s music. It’s a really great song, echoing Creedence Clearwater Revival as much as anything I’ve heard in the last several years.
I really enjoy “Country Bound” because it summarizes how I feel about the music industry; sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here, sometimes it feels like home. It’s a fascinating introspective song far more complicated than much of contemporary country music. Cobb approaches the music world with the same genuineness that defined John Denver’s career. In fact, if my ear serves, this song might even copy a John Denver chord progression. That said, this is a fantastic song that engenders listeners to an appropriate pride in country music. “Travelling Poor Boy” is another song that could be an instant classic. It really reminds me of one of Cobb’s co-writers, Andrew Combs. He’s clearly part of this country revival scene that seems to be pretty strong in Nashville (by the grace of God). This song unfolds a wonderful message about not being too dependent on money, but wrestling with the struggles of poverty. It has some clever, witty lyrics that have positively Guthrie-esque irony and humor.
The title track “Shine On Rainy Day” was actually one of my top tracks a few years ago when Andrew Combs recorded it. I honestly I love the versions that both of them have performed. They do a really good job of keeping the intricate melody and picture perfect chord progressions in their own distinct styles. Combs comes across as a bit more crisp, while Cobb comes across as being gruff and genuine. The lyric “ain’t it funny how you learn to pray when your blue skies turn gray” is a sermon in a line. I could listen to the song all day and learn something new every time. It feels right and sounds impeccable.
“Down in the Gulley” is a little on the dark side, but pretty much has to be for a good country album. Something about the lyrics and structure reminds me of an older age, maybe early 20th century, with a distinctly southern flavor. The focus on the moonshine industry in Georgia makes for a quintessentially country song, but really fills the track with a sense of truth and a depth to it. In other words, it might be a cliche topic but Cobb delivers the lines well. When he sings about the “sheriff came a-lookin’ for the man who’s a’cookin’ that hash…” Whew. Legit chills.
The final track “Black Crow” is again dipping toes in the folk scene as much as anything. The electric guitar work really sells this one, but it’s the bluesy core that keeps me coming back for more. If you can listen to this song without an easy sway and a hankering for a strong drink… well… you should, okay? It’s a great song that makes you close your eyes and wish to be somewhere else. It’s about loneliness, poverty, and survival. It’s gripping and all too real.
This album is an absolutely fantastic contribution to country music in the 21st century. It should be on the short list for an awful lot of award lists. Cobb writes the kind of music that I wish was more popular in the genre today. Literally every track on this album is a better true country song than the entire top 10 on pop country music. I’d love to see this album get the fiscal support it deserves; people will love Cobb’s heart, writing, and performance.