With Halloween just a few days away, Southern rapper Yelawolf and Nashville country singer-musician Joshua Hedley have teamed for the chilling new track “Shadows” and its companion video. The song appears on Yelawolf’s forthcoming album Trial by Fire and follows the blues-flavored single “Daylight.”
Hedley, an East Nashville stalwart who’s backed artists like Jonny Fritz and Justin Townes Earle on fiddle in addition to leading his own band, sings the mournful opening hook: “Memories of shadows haunt me, from the years when I was young / All the things that used to terrify me, are the things that I’ve become.” He’s accompanied by a fingerpicked acoustic guitar and ghostly vocals, adding to the heavy mood. As unlikely as his pairing with Yelawolf may seem, Florida native Hedley says he’s a longtime hip-hop fan and found a kindred spirit in his collaborator.
“I’d play these bars as a kid and during our set breaks the DJ would come out and the same people who were two stepping and line dancing were out there grinding to Ginuwine or the 69 Boyz or whatever,” Hedley tells Rolling Stone Country. “So hip-hop and rap music have always been a large part of my life. I’ll go to my grave saying Biggie Smalls is one of he greatest songwriters of all time. That being said, I never thought I’d actually be a part of hip-hop. We met a couple years ago just sort of within the business. So I came over to his house and laid a couple fiddle tracks down and then he cooked me dinner and we drank almost an entire quart of moonshine. Not a pint, a quart. And not that bullshit you get at the bar now either – the real deal hillbilly bathtub brew shit. We’ve been friends ever since then.”
Alabama native Yelawolf – who spent several years living in Nashville – paints a vivid, frightening picture of personal demons, biker lawlessness, illicit drugs and all-out desperation in his characteristic drawl. “Whiskey bent after twelve – I’m always playing with death / Bullet shells in my yard – loaded gun on the shelf,” he snarls, backed by bluesy Dobro riffs and a shuffling beat. He’s looking back on lost innocence, realizing he’s embraced his own nightmares of paranoia and crime. In the video, he paces the floor of a decrepit house, observing the squalor before deciding to torch the place.
Yelawolf has previously incorporated references to country music in his work despite working primarily in hip-hop circles, comparing himself to the Man in Black for bucking stereotypes and surviving against the odds in his 2015 single “Johnny Cash.” His Trial by Fire tour, featuring guests Bubba Sparxxx and Struggle Jennings (grandson of Waylon), begins October 28th in Indianapolis.