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Nick Shoulders (from the album All Bad available on Gar Hole Records) (by Douglas DuPont)
Nick Shoulders is a true Appalachian renaissance man who gives credence to mullets everywhere. He and the Okay Crawdad are leaving no survivors on their new record All Bad. This being the fourth Shoulders album, it’s apparent that Nick and the band are not fucking around. The self-described purveyor of ‘haunted-house music’ has cut an LP that’s ready to resonate with even the most puritanical of roots-music enjoyers.
Opener “Hoarse Whisperer” welcomes the listener with signature dexterous whistle before ragtime piano, upright bass, and drums join the party. Crooning yodels abounds but lyrics aren't uttered until second track, “Blue Endless Highway” - an early high-point that covers the bases for an interesting country tune: a paranoid traveler in a shitty car trying to avoid cops on the way to see his sweetheart. The third song and title track are a potent expositional glimpse into a young Nick Shoulders, grappling with a southern upbringing. The proceeding “Hook Line and Sinker” is built around fish-pun chorus ‘there've been times that I’ve been a Largemouth Bass-tard’ and more freshwater double entendre. The inquisitive “It’s The Best?” finds the singer evaluating their romantic standards while also recognizing that, in reality, they should count themselves lucky to have a partner who puts up with them. “Toast First” is a weepy break-up ballad, re-hashing the last meal shared between two doomed lovers: ‘the eggs had a good run, I guess we did too’.
What follows is the mandatory instrumental and intentionally misspelled jaw harp movement “Arkansaw Troubler”. Not the first time he’s pulled this on us, real Shoulders-heads will recall the jarring “John Brown’s Nightmare” from 2021’s Home on the Rage. The winkingly-titled “Mama Tired” borders on being a preachy ‘smartphones are bad’ song, but is frustratingly good sounding. Tongue-in-cheek, but nothing new for man intent on cataloging social phenomena in song à la third album’s “Lockdown Lament”. “Up the Ouachita” is a whistle-heavy number that really gives the fiddle room to shine under a Cajun moon. The tender “Long Spring” is a quick song free of percussion, letting Nick’s bardic inclinations take the spotlight. “Appreciate’cha” is a boom-chicka-boom barnburner, and might just be the best song here. The lyrics of solidarity with the proletariat are starkly genuine, when compared with the hollow populism of, say, an Oliver Anthony.
Nearing the end of the record, “Whooped If You Will” has some of the most intense and unabashed contemporary yodeling heard on either-side of the Mississippi. It’s cool to hear in 2023—a man who is this connected to the sounds of yore, making them palpable for today. Closer “Empty Yodel No. 1” is a full-circle moment given the elusiveness of the ‘Empty Yodel’ songs that have reared their heads on three of the four Shoulders albums thus far. “Empty Yodel, No. 0” appeared on debut album Lonely Like Me, before skipping to “Empty Yodel, No. 2.” on third full-length outing Home on the Rage. Accounting for the missing “No.1” speaks to an attention to detail, and is something of an easter egg.
Now is the time to board the proverbial bus, because Nick Shoulders is becoming an Alt Country mainstay with the likes of Colter Wall, Tyler Childers, S.G. Goodman, and Jason Isbell. Country music enjoyers of all stripes and ages will more than likely enjoy the all good All Bad. (by Douglas DuPont)
Listen and buy the music of Nick Shoulders from AMAZON
For more information head over to the Nick Shoulders website
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