Most of you don't live in Oklahoma, so you'll probably have a hard time relating to a lot of what I'm about to say. Bear with me though, because you might learn something in the end. I live in a place that doesn?t just revere country music but worships it. People like Garth Brooks are gods here. Now, the good thing about this is that people like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams are treated as royalty; if you speak their name in vain, you've got an ass whipping waiting for you. So I've been around country music most of my life and have only recently embraced its roots. The Man in Black has always been a legend to me, but my respect for Merle Haggard has increased exponentially in the last two years. Enter Chad King. There are elements of this record that truly remind me of Haggard, especially the baritone in King's voice. His music would be greatly appreciated in this part of the country as it blends the lines between pop music and country. He's definitely on to something here.
Tracks like "Blue As Can Be" and "I'll Be Grown Up" highlight the low notes King can hit, and these are the tracks on which I'm most reminded of Merle Haggard. They're simple, but wonderful. I can't help but imagine a middle-aged country singer at the end of his career sitting on his porch in Kentucky, singing songs to his children. "I'll be grown up when you come home," he sings in the chorus. There's something sad about the moment, but ultimately fulfilling at the same time. Past lives are laid to rest and new ones are sparked.
Did you ever drive around late at night in your car just so you wouldn't have to be home? I did, and liked to get lost in suburban neighborhoods; it was always interesting to see whose lights were on at midnight on a Tuesday. "Forever Down" is the perfect soundtrack to that lonely, late night drive. Hushed vocals and mellow acoustic guitars glide along simply. "Circle K" is just the opposite. Instead of solitude, you're with your friends on a Friday night and don't have a care in the world. "I'm just a kid inside, driving in this car of mine, and I ain't gonna stop for you," he says in the opening. Many of the moments on this album remind me of being in my car. Sometimes you're sad and tired, other times you just don't give a fuck. You're not give-somebody-the-finger carefree, you're just oblivious.
"Dry Your Tears" has King singing in a raspy blues howl with slow guitars and light drumming. It's one of the best songs here and takes me back to a different time. I honestly feel transported to the '50s listening to this. Whispered "Boom-sha-bop, boom-boom-sha-bop"s in the background wouldn't be out of place at any drive-in where all the girls are wearing poodle skirts. Excellent. The opener, "Tired," is another gem, laced with pedal steel. As the song slips from verse to chorus, the visions change. Everything from a hot summer stroll to soaring above clouds in dreams is invoked by the music. It's a smooth and beautiful song.
Time warps and lonesome drives, this is an album of moodswings. Keep Recordings scores again with another quality release and excellent packaging to boot. Chad King is a member of the band Hula, which I hope is half as good as his solo work. He writes simple songs but accentuates them with additional instrumentation and other subtle nuances that make this a really good record. Supposedly Chad is an avid fan of Merle Haggard and is further studying the pedal steel. This is good news for all of us because those influences have made this record a minor treasure. 7/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)