If you think archetypal country music is dead and lost to the age of pop, you need an “Altitude Adjustment,” my friend. Midland, a country band from Dripping Springs, Texas, released their first full-length studio album, “On The Rocks,” in September of 2017.
The album is complete with twangy vocals, a song about drinkin’ and the swoon-worthy sounds of the beloved pedal steel guitar. Innovation clearly wasn’t the goal here. Midland rejects an overhauling of country music and, instead, embraces a classical country feel reminiscent of Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and the like.
Midland has created an album containing not only heartache, a stereotypical country song theme best exemplified by “Out Of Sight,” but also that let’s-get-outta-here, lose-your-cares, pastoral soul found in songs like “Check Cashin’ Country,” which exudes a certain freeness that’s absent in today’s era of country rap and pop crossovers.
As a whole, this album sticks to its guns. Musically, it flows well because every song hovers around that 1970’s, golden era of country sound. However, this is also one of its snags. All of the boxes are checked for preserving this primo stage of country music, but the album could have benefited from a song or two that broke out of those boxes, as well. Thematically, the album never lingers on heartbreak for too long, which is, arguably, a subject matter that can become heavy a little too quickly. Midland does a good job of straying from that pitfall.
But don’t think that just because Midland has stayed true to the classical country style that clearly inspired their sound that they haven’t also stayed true to themselves. Simply put, this band knows how to make music. Where the band really shines in this aspect is in their lyrics. “Lonely For You Only” boasts anguished verses that are symptomatic of solitude, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, “At Least You Cried” recognizes the speaker’s woe without becoming entrapped in the sob story of their lover. The dynamism present within the words of these songs is what transports it from what you’re expecting from a traditional country album to what you’re hoping for from modern country bands.
The singles from this debut album, “Drinkin’ Problem” and “Make A Little,” will be more than enough to prove to you the kind of record Midland has presented us with in “On The Rocks,” so give those and the other 11 tracks a listen and relive the glory days because, thanks to bands like this one, they’re comin’ back ’round the bend.