First of all, great album title, which proves the band at least have a grasp of Latin (the phrase was first used by Roman soldiers) and the human condition.
Before the release of the Virginia band’s fourth album, which they will support on the road opening for rockin’ country act Whiskey Myers (whose festival they also play in the fall), I fell for the singles that trailed it: Damn Darlin’ sets a barroom narrative (‘Nashville, you have broken my heart’) to a gentle tune, while the harmonies on Annabel are exquisite to show how much the narrator needs to ‘make it through this hell’ with a lady by his side.
The album’s biggest impact track (or ‘single’ as they were called in the old days) was Russell County Line, a proper country song where vocalist Isaac Gibson is nostalgic for his Virgina home where he’s left his heart. The squealing guitar solo is perfectly placed in what will become a career song, joining fan favourites Everlasting Lover, So Damn Sweet and Hays, Kansas in their setlist.
Man’s Best Friend sets to organ and guitar a tale of Jesus and Jim Beam, which both affect the body and soul. I guess Isaac has chosen the latter, as evidenced by Neon, an anthem for the barfly: when a fella in a small town ‘ain’t got no option…ain’t got much time for no fun’, men like Isaac’s narrator will always find ‘a place to call home’ at the bar. Last Call follows, a honkytonker where the barman’s call is just ‘a cue for me to go get my next round’. The piano solo is worth the cover charge alone!
The production on the album is crisp and clear, like a Jason Isbell record. All I Need is driven by a crazy lick that Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers fans would love. It is a celebration of life on the road (‘we ain’t got no hits but we sell a few tickets’) with some well-placed cowbell clanging away. I call this type of music Bob Harris Country, because Bob is a sucker for this sort of thing.
Hillbilly Daydream is a sequence of small-town imagery set to a bluesy riff; you can hear the heartache on Second Chance, where my favourite type of guitar sound drives the narrative; the album’s title track, meanwhile, is a carpe diem song about getting off the sofa and getting in gear. It has a magnificent country-rock arrangement with lines about Chevrolets, Friday 13th and being ‘high on the hog’.
I think 49 Winchester don’t need to be reminded about getting up and out. They’ve got a busy summer ahead of them in the States, with bookings at the Botanical Garden in Boise, Idaho and Rhythm & Roots in Bristol, Tennessee. They’ll keep on converting fans one at a time, and I imagine this fourth album will cement their brand for long-time fans.