If I wasn’t already keen on Georgia native Ethan Crump’s debut EP by the time the first song was a few bars old, I certainly would have been by the third and fourth tracks, ‘Mary Ann’ and ‘Mason County Blues’, which are delicate pieces of country music songwriting and singing that suggest a lifetime of experience rather than Crump’s nineteen years on Earth. They also suggest the restraint typical of someone who has written enough songs to know what to leave out – except apparently he only started writing in 2015.
Too often a young or new artist, nervous that they might never get another chance, will want to show the audience what they have: all the stories, all the tricks, all the verbal gymnastics. Crump suffers from none of this. He clearly has a strong storytelling instinct that he follows all the way through the five songs on this EP. There is not a single note of doubt about what he is doing, nor is there insecurity – he doesn’t demand attention but, rather, commands it.
The songs are identifiably country music; they feature judicious use of traditional instruments that allows Crump’s voice to deliver his stories, and either he has naturally great diction or he’s made sure that he sings clearly so that his stories are given the best possible chance to be heard.
Some of the early press about Crump has him as ‘the real deal’. Yes, he is. He’s also an artist whose work is worth savouring. There’s enough shade in here to break your heart and enough light to keep you coming back for more.
Hellfire & Amazing Grace is out now.