We’ve written a great deal about the work of Josh Turner and Carson McKee on our site. It’s probably no surprise that we’re excited to dig into their recent venture on Naysayer. I’ll be blunt with my critique; if you’re a fan of Paul Simon, you’ll like this album. Let’s unpack the tracks together.
“Solid Ground” feels like it could have come right off of Graceland. There’s some kind of magic to the way that these two songwriters can create art that reminds us of so many other classics. But let’s not discount the art as it stands; this song is ultimately about seeking salvation and asking hard questions. “Salvation is a long way down” seems like a provocative, even philosophical lyric. I’d love to unpack this one further with the writers.
“The Ballad of John McRae” appeared on the famous duo’s YouTube page, so we had the honor of hearing this one. It’s definitely got a classic folk narrative style to it. McKee’s vocal really shines through on this one, allowing the listener to follow that “river’s flow” through the track. You’ll find yourself trying to sing harmony on this one. I won’t spoil the lyrics, but it’s worth a close listen.
Get yer toes tappin’ for “Pig Farming,” an intentionally bluegrass-infused track. Followers of the Other Favorites know that they can bounce between genres prety easily. This one shows off some of the best pick work on the whole album. The following “Coney Island Fair” also has great acoustic work, but it comes back to the folk roots of the band. There’s a lightness and brightness to it that shows off some of the best of the Other Favorites’ originals. Some of the melodic twists and turns on this one are sure to please the listeners. It’s nostalgic in a Simon and Garfunkel way, which we love.
“Number One in America” gets back to that Paul Simon vibe I mentioned in the opening. If you listen closely you’ll get shades of all sorts of artists like Don McLean and even Springsteen. But you know what… enough with the comparisons. Let’s just enjoy the way this one moves. Listen to the lyrics. I bet you’re thinking of someone you went to high school with whether that was last year or 30 years ago. That is the power of a good song.
The bass on “Heart of the Country” will put a smile on your face. Then you get to Turner’s lead vocal and realize that we’re just not worthy. The jazzy improv style meshed so perfectly with a country aesthetic makes for a sound that, frankly, I don’t think I CAN compare with anyone else. This is an amazing song and probably the class of the album. Banjo skills for DAYZ ya’ll.
“Saturn Rising” has this repeated lyric “naked and afraid” that really reveals a fascinating thread through the album. There’s a lot of seeking going on here, especially regarding sort of why we’re here on earth. Is it to serve ourselves? To become famous? To fall in love? There’s a sort of home-spun philosophical style to it, interspersed with these captivating classical sketches and bluegrass fingerpicking. Fascinating stuff.
The final track “Night Shift/Entomology” is the perfect way to end the album. Showing off some of McKee’s best vocal work on the whole album, there’s an expressive and sincere element here. Stripping away some of the production tricks of earlier tracks, this one feels like a final philosophical poem. Around the 2:00 mark it moves into a string break that is one of my favorite parts of the album. I could listen to this one all day.
Here again we have a fantastic album from the Other Favorites. I love the variety that they present. Sometimes I want them to write a full bluegrass album, a full rock album, and a full Americana album. But then I hear something like this (especially the ending) and just swoon. They are SO good. Musical history is going to look back on these guys as a breath of indie fresh air in a vapid and empty pop music scene one day.