Country Jukebox Jury EPs: LOCASH and Townsend

LOCASH – Woods & Water EP

LOCASH are one of those acts who get songs placed on country radio but aren’t household names. Their success seems to come down to knowing the right people. Their first big hit from 2015 was the overly positive I Love This Life, written with Chris Janson who also helped the duo write Truck Yeah for Tim McGraw. I Know Somebody (written by Ross Copperman), Ring On Every Finger (written by Thomas Rhett) and One Big Country Song (written by Ashley Gorley and Hardy) were all plucked off the shelves and sung by the pair who used to be called LOCASH Cowboys.

This five-track EP includes their first new material in almost three years. Beach Boys picks up where country-popper Brian Kelley’s last album left off: ‘Let’s take the country to the beach, boys’ is the command, while they interpolate I Get Around on the post-chorus and the famous harmonies to such an extent that Brian Wilson and Mike Love will get royalties from a tune which namechecks Brooks & Dunn. I like the line about getting ‘some red on the rednecks’ and how they smuggle Kokomo into the middle eight. It’s smart but you don’t need to hear the studio version more than once.

Sippin’ Sunsets (good title) compares the ‘golden’ view to the boys’ beloved, with another languid melody. Having introduced the water, In The Woods turns the phrase ‘it’s all good in the hood’ to a rural setting. It sounds like one of those Rhett Akins tunes that, in one form or another, is on country radio every hour of every day. The digital drum loop ruins what could have been a really good acoustic pop song, full of catchiness and smart lyrics.

Indeed Rhett is called up with his Peach Picker buddies Ben Hayslip and Dallas Davidson on Small Town For Life. As you can well imagine, it’s a series of rural signifiers, so country bingo cards at the ready: jeans, boots, red dirt roots, trucks, praying for rain, daddy, ‘my back home girl’, amen. The vocal interplay reminds me of Holloway Road, who would make a good opener if LOCASH tour their music in the UK next year.

Chillionaire (not a good title) lopes along with both a whistling hook and a ‘sit/sip’ pre-chorus hook that will pop live. It’s country-pop hip-hop in the modern style which rhymes ‘cheddar/go-getter’ and builds to a chorus full of laziness. Florida Georgia Line could have cut this in their golden days of 2015; it feels vaguely nostalgic now. I hope there’s still a place for this in the market. The style will never go away but it’s in direct opposition to the current trend, as this is fun music for parties and gatherings.

Townsend EP

The main point to note for this EP is that five years ago Townsend lost her drummer and collaborator. The album Show Me Home came out in 2018 and now, along with a podcast, there are five new tracks on a self-titled EP.

Stay was the impact track, which had hints of confessional songwriting from the 1990s – Counting Crows, Fiona Apple and Liz Phair for instance – with wide-open production, a chugging instrumental section and yearning lyrics sung with a keening melody (‘I need love…I don’t want to stay’). It’s country in as much as she’s telling a story and drawing in the listener, but it’s on the rockier, poppier side.

The rest of the EP continues in a similar vein, which will interest fans of Brandi Carlile, for instance. Can’t Travel has Townsend saying ‘I blame myself’ over a train beat and a simple chord progression, while Whisper has another familiar progression (the Don’t Stop Believing One) and adds a chorus full of empathy and melody, with some vocalised scatting to accompany some nice exhortations: ‘Keep your eyes shut tightly…Don’t worry, baby stop your shaking’.

Scars (which ‘made me, me’) is a story of self-examination that 1000 open mic singers have sung but is made interesting by another great development section in the middle. I loved the short, sweet Sunrise, which adds some rhythm to a pretty melody, and would love to hear more than 19 minutes of what Townsend has to say.

The aim of her podcast is to ‘encourage people to feel less alone’. Her music does the same.

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