Essential Review – Tyminski’s ‘Southern Gothic’

Sometimes it can take years for people to recognize an impactful piece of music. This can happen because the music is by an artist that isn’t well-known or the music is so different that it takes the genre and audience years to catch up. I fully believe this when it comes to Tyminski’s Southern Gothic album he released last year. When it becomes more common place for electronic elements and country to be fused together, people will look back and point to this album as a pioneering effort in electronic country. Dan Tyminski was the perfect artist for an album like this one with his extensive bluegrass experience and being the voice behind the hit “Hey Brother.” Southern Gothic may not be a perfect album, but it shows us just how excellent electronic country can sound.

The album’s title track opens and right away Tyminski delivers one of the best tracks on the album. It’s a scathing, cynical and dark look at the average small town in America. What were once regarded as little Mayberry-like towns with hard-working people is now full of sin and hypocrites. I particularly enjoy how the song shows the dissonance of how the town full of God-fearing people and churches on every corner demonstrate themselves to be anything but Christian-like. The production on this song is so spot on, perfectly creating the haunting, creepy vibe that lulls over the town being described in the song (credit to producer Jesse Frasure). This song is such a refreshingly real look at really the state of small town America right now, exposing the flaws and problems that plague modern society that many seemingly don’t want to acknowledge.

“Breathing Fire” is your “I don’t give a shit anymore” anthem. It’s about being fed up of turning the other cheek and just raising hell instead. It’s fun and catchy, making it impossible to not bob your head along with the beat. The next song “Gone” is about the loss of small town love. While love leaves the small town, the man is left to be haunted by her memories and wondering what if. I enjoy the urgency Tyminski shows in his voice throughout, showing the passion and heartbreak of a broken man well. The bouncy and infectious “Temporary Love” just grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go. It’s one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in recent memory in country music. Throughout the song the man decries one-night stands and his short-lived relationships, blaming both himself and the intoxication of quick sex. He’s ready for something more permanent and meaningful, but can’t pull himself away to find it. The rhythmic clapping with the interludes of drum machines makes this song so damn danceable, an element that gets under-looked in the genre.

Tyminski follows this with another catchy song in “Perfect Poison.” It could easily serve as the song about the short-term and hook-up relationships mentioned in “Temporary Love.” The opening of the chorus, “You’re no good for me/Like a methamphetamine”, is delivered perfectly by Tyminski and the song just sounds like the chaos of the relationship. “Devil is Downtown” deals with the access of opioids in small town America. It goes into detail of how easy it can be to get a quick hit from the drug dealer downtown and how easy it is to fall into the trap of drugs. It’s a dark, but necessary glimpse into something that is a real problem.

“Hollow Hallelujah” is one of the more underrated moments on the album. I interpret the song to be about being afraid to get help and look for answers, instead just crawling on your own and wandering in your own darkness. The song’s ultimate message is it’s okay to ask for that help and that God and friends are there to help you through. This song demonstrates the importance of showing the light in a dark song, as it provides the contrast necessary to drive home the message. The Celctic-folk influenced “Good For Your Soul” gets back to the fun side of the album. It’s an enjoyable ditty about a man pleading he’s good for his woman and desiring to remain with her wherever she goes. “Wailing Wall” follows a similar line. The heavy bass of the drums gives the song a swaggering, pounding tone that sticks with you.

“Haunted Heart” puts me in the mind of one of my favorite books, The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It reminds me of the part of the story where it reaches the sweaty and dark jungle. It conveys a sense of urgency, fear and loneliness, just like the heartbroken man described in this song. Tyminski reflects upon his love of music being handed down to him by his family on “Bloodline.” It’s a nice homage to where and who he’s come from, showing how it went from a hobby to a passion for him. For those who dismiss this album for its sound, they miss out on the many meaningful songs like this one.

Tyminski addresses the end of a relationship on “Wanted.” He’s ready to walk out the door and be gone for good, knowing both him and his woman got what they wanted in the relationship. She got his love for a while and he leaves, as he knew what the relationship was destined for from the beginning. It’s a solid track, albeit maybe unnecessary with the album run time going a bit too long for my liking. The album closes out with the ominous sounding “Numb.” It’s one of the rawest moments on the album, as a man realizes he can’t recapture the old feelings of a past love. He feels nothing about her, as the pain of the fallout has made him empty inside from his inability to let it go. In an album full of dark moments, this is perhaps the darkest as it shows a window to the inside of the loneliest type of heartbreak imaginable.

Tyminski’s creativity and innovation is on full display on Southern Gothic. As I said this isn’t a perfect album, but its brilliant moments outshine the few flaws. A big credit should be given to Jesse Frasure, who produced the album and helped write many of the songs. He’s helped introduce many new wrinkles in fusion country and this is perhaps his best work so far, capturing the dark and chaotic nature of the songs throughout this album. I hope this pairing will continue to work together and create more projects in the future. Tyminski is the one who should lead this electronic country sound and demonstrate its potential to the rest of the genre. But regardless of future plans, Tyminski’s Southern Gothic is without a doubt an essential album in the realm of fusion country.

Album’s Top Highlights: Southern Gothic, Temporary Love, Hollow Hallelujah, Bloodline, Breathing Fire, Perfect Poison, Numb, Devil is Downtown


Producer: Jesse Frasure

Songwriters: Dan Tyminski, Jesse Frasure, Josh Kear, Will Weatherly, Cary Barlowe, Nick Bailey, Kyle Fishman, Paul Moak, Ashley Monroe, Amy Wadge, Sarah Buxton, Tofer Brown, Andrew Dorff, Ryan Ogren

 

Review – Little Big Town’s “Summer Fever”

Little Big Town has been the top superstar group in country music for years now. Yet I feel like this group doesn’t get the credit they deserve. Too often I feel they get dismissed as another pop country group, but really this is a group that puts out a lot of good music. If you’ve seen them in concert, you would know that their knowledge and appreciation of music is deep. Their last album The Breaker was one of their best and now they’re back with the lead single of their next album, “Summer Fever.” If you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s a summer song and it’s an instant jam. Just like Kacey Musgraves’ “High Horse,” this song encompasses the disco country sound (I would love to see this sound become the next trend in the genre). It’s infectious, groovy and fun, kind of reminding me of something the Bee Gees would cut. Throw in the lyrics that evoke imagery of the beach and the sounds of a “mix-tape” playing and you have a song that’s a perfect fit on a summer playlist. It’s very much the type of song that works best at a certain time of the year. I will say this song isn’t nearly as catchy as their most recent singles, but it’s the groove that wins you over immediately and the lyrics catch on with more repeated listens. Small quibble aside, Little Big Town delivers a great summer anthem in “Summer Fever.”

Grade: Great Summer Anthem

Songwriters: Cary Barlowe, Karen Fairchild, Jesse Frasure, Sam Romans