Have you noticed how cold it is? It's rather hard to ignore -40C, and fighting off the urge to hibernate is a chore all its own. Although I'd rather spend my days under a mountain of blankets, and this is currently impossible, I did manage to find an album worth listening to if the situation ever arose.
Lonely Life, by New York's Scott Rudd, is a lo-fi acoustic effort riddled with cynicism and hard feelings. Its blatant truths are a hard reminder of things we all feel, especially in moments of loneliness. Rudd's words are almost hard to swallow, forcing a moment of self reflection, something we often like to put off.
Lonely Life is delivered in a bar bones fashion which suits its themes. Rudd's arrangements frame the words first, the guitar always playing seconds, and sparing use of harmonies or stringed instruments fill in the hollow sounds. In each song, a line or two can be find that makes you stop, think, and realize that you're not invincible. Words such as, "Gotta find a new way to get more, I'm so tired of being poor; it's been four years staring at a wall, I'm so tired of feeling small." really punched me in the chest, and there's plenty more to choose from.
Lonely Life isn't defined by its musical splendor, world class production, or ground breaking genius, but rather by Rudd's ability to write a strong song. He captures moments with honest words, which is more than most musicians can accomplish these days. You end up hanging off of every phrase, almost like waiting for closure; something that makes you feel better about yourself. I couldn't help but think, "Wow, at least I'm not as sad as this guy. I guess I'm doing okay."
Picking the music for a road trip can be a daunting task for some. It's especially important while driving through somewhere as exciting as the US mid-west, or Saskatchewan. This record should be simple, of decent length, and more interesting than what's outside the windows. Released in January, but suited for June, Pepper Johnson's Flat Country has been called the soundtrack for I-40 (or any rural highway, really).
It's a well composed, albeit rowdy, Country and Western effort that veers far from mainstream. Full of banjos and shuffle beats, it embodies the spirit of the highway. It's lazy and busy at the same time, like it has somewhere to be... eventually. Flat Country also carries with it elements not usually found in a country album, which is refreshing. Ethereal reverb and soaring bridges come and go freely, interspersed between tight rhythms. It is these breaks which keeps the album interesting, giving it, and you, space to breath. Although there is some clutter, the basics are simple and this is a very easy record to listen to. It pleasantly carries on and could probably get through a couple repeats before you even noticed it, or the few hundred kilometers you just covered.
"Laura", "When the Morning Come", and "Paper Cups" are my favorite picks, although every song it wonderful. Keep this album in mind when you're setting out across that flat country alone or with company. Pepper Johnson makes a pretty good road companion.