“I think a lot of roots influenced artists feel the need to defend tradition in this way. Today though, I want to do more with the form, push myself past where I understand it to be.” Carson McHone.
Our album of the week this week comes from Austin DIY independent country artist Carson McHone. Carousel has been many years in the making and is essentially a reworking of much of McHone’s debut album from 2015 Goodluck Man. As McHone calls it’s “a debut to the rest of the (non-Austin) world”. Containing seven extensively reworked tracks from her debut including the brilliant ‘Dram Shop Girl’ and the plaintive piano ballad ‘How ‘Bout It’, Carousel also contains three new tracks, two originals ‘Sad’ and ‘Spider Song’ and a reworking of ‘Drugs’ originally by Chris Brecht. Together with the directions she has taken on the reworks, all three are indicative of McHone’s determination to challenge herself artistically and present to her audience an album of country music written and made on her own terms.
Both the reworks and the originals display layers of social and personal insight and a depth and maturity which convey both a fierce defence of her cultural and economic independence as a young woman and her deeply personal connection to the chasm that often plagues modern relationships. It also offers wryly observational musings on an unforgiving world that is still full of pitfalls for those of an artistic bent. With country music having been in her blood for time immemorial, there is a distinct confidence at work on Carousel and this allows for a sense of adventure in song-craft and at the same time, a deep respect for her those considerable music roots.
Despite its stellar wanderings, nobody could ever accuse HcHone of having a lack of understanding or paying lip service to whatever the purists think country music is and among the 10 tracks you will find some of the most traditional country music imaginable. Witness ‘Good Time Daddy Blues’, ‘Maybe They’re Just Really Good Friends’ and the renamed ‘Lucky’ as cases in point. But each have McHone’s prints all over them and her vocals in both tone and arrangement in particular set her apart as unique.
All these elements make Carousel a ‘darn’ fine listen and have more than contributed to McHone realising her ambition of pushing beyond convention. All can be found on the multi-dimensional ‘Sad’, a poignant yet gorgeous mid tempo number replete with fiddle and pedal steel that takes a widescreen view of a normal human emotion. They can also be seen on ‘Drugs’ which is a track that has little to do with its literal title and everything to do with the selfish behaviour that is associated with an addiction to a fellow human being. A thrilling and satisfying album in all respects and highly recommended.
James Stocker – October 27, 2018.
Listen to ‘Sad’ and ‘Drugs’ below and pre-order a copy of Carousel on vinyl through Nine Mile Records on McHone’s own website here.
Carson McHone (USA)
From the album, ‘Carousel’, Self Released/Nine Mile.