Friday, December 22, 2023

CD Odyssey Disc 1699: Boy Golden

Today is my first day of a much-needed holiday break. So far, I have slept in with my cat and had a shower and since you’ll be reading this after I post, written this review. I plan to make myself more useful through the day, but a nice slow ramp up to useful is just what I needed.

Disc 1699 is…For Jimmy

Artist: Boy Golden

Year of Release: 2023

What’s up with the Cover? Despite some fashion decisions for the photo shoot, it is hard not love a man with a moustache and a mullet like that. Also, as Boy Golden himself sings on “Mountain Road”:

“Been wearing the same thing for coming a year
But I'm thinking of changing my style”

So there’s hope.

How I Came To Know It: Earlier this year, my friend Casey suggested I go see Boy Golden in concert. I didn’t know who Boy Golden was, but after listening to a few tracks on Youtube I decided it was worth my while. I am glad I did, as the live show was all kinds of awesome.

As for the album itself, I bought this one and another Boy Golden release (2021’s “The Church of Better Daze”) from the merch table at the show. I love getting albums at merch tables because it means more profit to the artist, and not some intermediary.

How It Stacks Up: This record and “Church of Better Daze” are my only two Boy Golden records. I haven’t given “Church” the attention it deserves to make a value judgment, but you didn’t come to this section of the review to watch me equivocate, and besides, it ain’t in my nature. I’m going out on a limb and saying it would be a great record indeed to displace, “For Jimmy” and for that reason I rank it #1, at least for now.

Rating: 5 stars

In the next week or so I’ll be considering my much anticipated (by a few) best releases of 2023. Expect “For Jimmy” to land high on that list. This record may be short (at six songs/22 minutes it is straddling EP territory) but it packs a whole lot of awesome into those 22 minutes.

“Just what kind of music is this, then?” You may ask yourself, as I did when my friend mentioned the show. I’d say it is outlaw country music, and at its core that is exactly what it is. Like Steve Earle accomplished 35 years ago, “For Jimmy” brings in elements of backcountry bluegrass and good old-fashioned rock and roll into something all its own. In many ways, Boy Golden is the inheritor to Earle’s groundbreaking early work, filling a much-needed space in modern music alongside folks like Hayes Carll.

The album is a well-balanced mix of self-exploration and party tunes, with the two concepts often crossing over one another. Consider, these lines from the aforementioned “Mountain Road”:

“Living is easy if you want to
Sure can be hard if you don't
Walking through the parking lots lost in your thoughts
Now you're standing at the No Frills alone”

Deep stuff, but mingled with cheap motels, it captures the grit and grime that binds this record together. The themes of “Mountain Road” echo through the record, returning full force on “Blue Hills”, a song laden with great observations, powerful images, and lyrics that send your brain down twisty passages you may not have walked in a while. I could quote the whole thing, but I’ll grab just six for you here:

“Out on the road, that's where I belong
Highway Ten's getting long
Dirt road junkies in their trucker caps
You don't get stopped by the cops when you look like that

“Where you get born ain't always where you're coming from
It matters more what you intend to become”

Blue Hills” also has some sublime guitar work. Because beneath all the great songwriting and lyrics, Boy Golden is one hell of a guitar player.

Aging Mr. Riley” is a tale of lowlifes engaged in fixing horse racing, double-crossing each other along the way. If you’ve been waiting for a worthy inheritor to Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” this is it. The tune even gives a nod to the melody from “Copperhead Road” for the bridge, just so you know that while Boy Golden is forging new trails, he’s also respectful of those who came before.

The record ends with “Out on the Weekend” which is a perfect reflection of what it is to chill with friends on the weekend. This song is hyper specific and yet universal to anyone fortunate enough – as I am – to be surrounded by good friends that you love and trust. Best (of many great) lines:

“In the garage, they're spinning some wax
Old country music helps me relax
So does a beer and we're throwing them back
Jen rolled a joint my God was it fat
It's a good time, I'm drinking coffee you're drinking wine”

So much in here, including that different people get their kicks in different ways, but they can still get them together. Here we've got three vices covered in six lines - four if you count old country music.

Better still is the exceptional phrasing of Boy Golden’s delivery, and the structure of the lyrics perfectly serving that phrasing. Some artists rearrange a sentence to force a rhyme. Boy Golden rearranges a sentence because it serves the song. It festoons his work with memorable punch lines and thoughtful observations that heighten the story or theme of the song every time.

My friend Casey initially sold me on this record by saying “it only has six songs but every single one of them is great.” He was right. This record was short, and I could’ve reviewed it on Tuesday, except I wasn’t done enjoying it. Instead I let it play over and over again for the better part of the week, loving it more and more with every listen.

Best tracks: All tracks


cfarrell said...

Wow. That was a satisfying read. I hope our boy sees it. There is so much to love about this record packed with goodness. So many quotable lines. Thanks for sharing your words.

cfarrell said...

Oh yeah. Count me among those eagerly awaiting your best of 2023. Past editions have certainly added to my musical enlightenment and listening pleasure.