Five of the 12 tracks on Midland’s third studio album came out on an EP last year. You can read what I thought of them here. I was particularly charmed by ‘sweet little waltz’ Sunrise Tells The Story, which is the best track on the full album.
The seven new tracks were trailed by the collaboration with Jon Pardi, their fellow traditionalist. Why the title Long Neck Way To Go hasn’t been thought up before Ashley Gorley and Rhett Akins did is a mystery; perhaps it’s been in a list of possible titles for years. The track is everything you want from such a team up: Pardi adds grit, Midland add harmonies and the guys want the tab kept open. I guess that drinkin’ problem is still there.
Given that Midland are on Big Machine, it’s no surprise that the Akins family wandered into the writers room. Grandpa Rhett was also there on the rifftastic Paycheck to Paycheck (‘I’d have a mansion in Malibu and you’d call me Post Malone’ if life were different), while his son Thomas Rhett provides another of his elegant melodies on Bury Me In Blue Jeans. I like the comparison between kings buried ‘with all their things, rubies and diamond rings’ and a cowboy laid to rest ‘with boots up’.
The LP’s title track opens the set, with a punning title that sets the band by the ocean at a resort, ‘running till I run out of shore’. It evokes about 20 songs from before the year 2000 with its guitar sound, chord changes and lyrical theme: ‘The AC’s broke but I got the ocean breeze’ is a lovely opening line, probably one of Shane McAnally’s, whose sonic fingerprints are all over this album.
If I Lived Here (‘I’d be home by now’) is Midland’s version of a barroom utopia set to a jaunty honky-tonk tune with a fun coda and a four-bar pedal steel solo from Paul Franklin. It’s a twist on ‘you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here’, the familiar call for last orders.
There are a couple of solo writes on the album. Cameron, who directed a Bruno Mars music video, croons the King of Saturday Night, a Brooks & Dunn homage with chunky guitars. Jessie sings and writes Life Ain’t Fair, an Eagles-y tune about people who, for instance, ‘step right up’ and take a chance at a carnival. Aha: life ain’t like a fairground, so it isn’t fair.
Life hasn’t been fair for Midland fans in the UK, who finally get the chance to see the band in May 2022 on their Let’s Try This Again tour. They were due to promote second album Let It Roll in the fall of 2019 but the date was pushed back to spring 2020 and then to September 2021.
At long last, UK fans of a fun live act can sing along to their commercial country tunes which have one foot in the past. They’re still a construct put together to bring traditional music back, but with songs like these, fake is better than real!