Record Of The Week # 62

April 6, 2019

Chad Richard – Worthy Cause

Prologue: 

If you’re engaged with Americana or Country music you’ll know about the bitter civil war that is taking place. Those who think they know better are apoplectic that Country Pop (as mass produced by the Big Three record companies) is taking up all the US radio airplay and being heavily promoted. This is whilst the ‘real’ product is marginalised and left to wither.

Well, that may be true commercially. However, if people are buying and enjoying Country Pop (and it isn’t as fatal as crack cocaine) then maybe something’s changed and we should just accept this as an era in the life of the genre? I’m proud to say I once walked out of a Florida Georgia Line concert whilst several thousand others had the best hour or so of their lives. I get the traditionalists’ pain but if Alan Jackson is complaining about US Country radio then I’m suspicious that his real complaint is that it’s inhibiting his down payment on another Lear jet.

Anyway, Chad Richard has a fabulous album that may be a refugee in the Americana genre due to Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini but it is released and you should give it a listen : you just need to look a bit more thoroughly for it. We’re here to help.

Album Review:

Chad Richard says he once got some advice about not turning something you love into a job. So for many years he had a job in a Louisiana chemical plant only playing small gigs. Walt Wilkins heard him and asked him to sit in with his band. From here things progressed and a debut album  released in 2015. This is his second release: produced by Wilkins. For the record Wilkins’ compiled a great band with players who ordinarily work with Ryan Bingham, Band Of Heathens and Kelly Willis. The result is a contemporary yet classic sounding Country album.

“Slow Rollin Stateline” hits a soulful easy groove to kick off 12 self penned songs. Marian Brackney’s fiddle leads the tune and Wilkins guitar adds some tasteful licks. The chorus places you way down South – “Zydeco to the East and gumbo too, Texas swing to the West, the world’s best barbecue, Sweet memories of these two states of mine, Flow like that Muddy, slow rolling Stateline”. “Love Anyway” has clever wordplay around the theme grace and mercy and generally getting along. His voice sits way up front over a gentle shuffling rhythm and strings add saccharine to the melody. His voice can carry a tune with a deep reflective care worn timbre welded to a delicious Southern drawl. It also drips personality that helps adds great emphasis to the message.

“Waters Rise” is topical. With sonorous backing vocals (Tina Mitchell Wilkins) he sings to the accompaniment of an electric piano of how people rally round to deal with such catastrophes and rise up higher than the water. “Worthy Cause” could be Chris Stapleton with a bluesy vocal over a minimum of backing. He puts his heart into this love ballad and we bathe in that expressive voice whilst eventually a piano (Chip Dolan) and lap steel (Corby Schaub) take this home.

Topics chosen are engaging, and include ghosts, the kindness of strangers, single parenting and, to prove that this is a bone fide Country album, he even ‘pops a top’ and sings about a dog. However for all of that he can construct an arresting line or two and in the wistful “The Game” (about a solo troubadour playing the circuit) he sings – ‘Waitress cleans off a table while she talks to me, Says she’s been workin in here since ’93, The sad smile she wears makes it easy to see, She ain’t exactly where she hoped to be”.

He’s a man with a number of miles on the clock and a great observer. Coupled with this is his ability to find a thoughtful lyric to articulate it and not least an ear for a tune. This record is a great listen with no filler and it is quite baffling how a thing of such great beauty had to be self released. I’m really hoping he gets some traction and finds a larger audience. 

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