Clichés are clichés for a reason, goes the cliché – as Brent Cobb demonstrates in the title track to his latest LP, a tribute to throwing a cooler in your ride and heading down to a sacred spot to chill. That’s the upshot of countless ham-handed country-radio anthems. But here, carefully-distilled acoustic and steel guitars sparkle, a Hammond B3 sighs over a loping beat and Cobb’s exacting details (the sweet relief of a decisive spring day, name-carving in a red clay wall, stars falling, years passing) cast durable emotions in magical hi-res. Even if you can’t close your laptop and bolt straightaway to Providence Canyon State Park in Southwest Georgia, the song can make you feel its peace in your bones.
Cobb’s as much a throwback Southern rocker as a modern country singer, and his sound is a perfect match for cousin Dave Cobb, whose production work with Chris Stapleton – Brent’s tourmate of late – and others continues re-shaping the Nashville Sound into an earthier, more idiosyncratic thing. Where Cobb’s fine 2016 breakout Shine On Rainy Day cast him as singer-songwriting tale-teller, these songs are more from the gut. The soulful “King of Alabama” is a funky tribute to a fallen friend and fellow traveller that rides a deep-southern strut: “If you thought he looked country/y’oughta heard him sing,” Cobb observes, drawl so thick he might as well be talking about himself. “Sucker for a Good Time” is spiked with screaming doubled-guitar lines that echo the Allmans’ Eat a Peach, while “.30-06” makes its jealous threat with a particular old-school hunting rifle, another example of his eye for telling detail. Throughout, you get the sense of a dude trying to hold on to his roots while riding the present hard. “Come Home Soon” is a searching ballad about turning your spiritual escape into a career, and the sometimes-harsh wages of life on the road. It’s another timeworn topic he makes new again, with meticulous attention to craft and a shit-ton of soul.