Country Jukebox Jury LP: Elvie Shane – Backslider

Kentuckian Elvie Shane has been the Little Engine of 2021. His song My Boy, about stepfatherhood, has climbed all the way to number one on radio. There is also a version called My Girl, where stepdaughters are praised too. As with Yours by Russell Dickerson, radio has supported a great song sung well, which the label hopes will translate into a career. Russell will play the main stage at C2C 2022, though he is more pop-leaning than Elvie, whose voice is similar to that of Luke Combs. Like Luke, Elvis writes all his own stuff with a host of colleagues, here including superstar drummer Fred Eltringham, Luke’s buddy Ray Fulcher and Dan Couch, who wrote Something Bout A Truck with Kip Moore.

On Wheelhouse Records, which also puts out Runaway June’s music, Elvie’s debut album includes My Boy as the tenth track on a 15-track set. It follows the County Roads EP which whetted appetites for this project. The album’s cover is notable, as it shows Elvie with his hands clasped in prayer. This sets up what ought to be an old-school country album where Jesus, family and plenty of rural signifiers will make up the lyrics and the music will twang.

The EP set up Elvie as a cross between Kip Moore and Eric Church, with even bigger drums.

There’s plenty of Broadway-style rockin’ out to County Roads, with some na-na-nas adding a singalongability. The song is a statement of intent, something to drink to thanks to the ‘here’s to’ lyric. Sundress, however, is a ballad in the Kip or Aldean vein about a girl and a car and sneaking off for some fun, while My Mississippi opens with a quick blast of organ before Elvie sings the praises of the eponymous river: ‘I know a girl a lot like you’ switches the narrative to love being like a river. It’s a smart song set to three familiar chords.

Keep On Strummin’ has him ‘running down a dream’ and will ‘hit the ground runnin’ while he plays his guitar. There’s a nice nod to Sixteenth Avenue, both the street and the song which details songwriters coming to town with a guitar and a dream. We get loads of references to famous country songs – Where I Come From, Fortunate Son, Born To Run – and Elvie is working in the tradition of Tom Petty, Alan Jackson, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bruce Springsteen. I gotta have more cowbell! Kip Moore fans will find much to enjoy and if I heard this in a Broadway bar, I would pop a five-dollar bill in the jar.

Sundays In The South majors on twang before listing Southern images: NASCAR, potholes, church bells and spiritual songs like I’ll Fly Away and Amazing Grace. The Cadillac Three do this sort of thing and it’s credit to Elvie that this can stand alongside it.

The nine new tracks collected on the album include song of devotion I Will Run, the album opener which begins with synths straight out of 1983 and adds a percussion loop and some acoustic licks. I rose up out of my seat when I heard the intro of Love, Cold Beer, Cheap Smoke, where there’s more ‘running’: it contains my favourite type of chugging guitar sound, over which Elvie reminisces about good times and raising up beer bottles. It’s so close to an Eric Church song that he could claim a credit for the vibe.

Eric’s influence also looms over the great driving song Nothin Lasts Forever (‘but we could try’), with harmonies from Tenille Townes, and the funky, itchy Heartbreaks and Headaches, where drink makes another appearance. Conversely yet on the same theme, Rocket Science is a lovely power ballad about ‘leaving smoke trails’ since it’s so hard to forget the memory of an ex.

There’s a quirky interlude featuring the deep voice of The Fletch called Kickin’ Stones with plenty of religious fervour, which segues into the church-inspired rocker Saturday Night Me (‘and Sunday Morning you’), which ought to be brilliant live, especially with the vivid line linking ‘stained glass and my neon’.

My Kinda Trouble opens with a verse about not covering up tattoos because ‘your kinda crazy’s the kind I like…the kinda hammer that’ll hit you just right’. The wheel isn’t reinvented but why change the rockin’ formula? As well as femmes fatales, we’ve got mama: the album ends with the seven-minute, strings-laden opus Miles (with My Mama), as in the song is called Miles and Elvie’s mum appears too. Family, like a Fast & Furious movie, is omnipresent, and Elvie wants the listener to carpe the diem because there are ‘miles you’ll never get back again’.

As if to hammer home the allusions to Eric Church (come on, Elvie even wears aviator shades), there’s a fine passage of guitar to close the track and the album.

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