This is another from my better-late-than-never files: an album that was released at the end of 2016 yet, of course, the date is not relevant to how the music sounds, and in the case of Chuck Westmoreland’s self-titled debut solo LP, that’s largely because the music is timeless will still being of its time.
I’m fond of using the word ‘troubadour’ when it applies – not that I do it often. It’s a useful word because it contains so much: the notion of, usually, a man who can tell a story in song and carry people along with him so well that those people almost seem bewitched. It’s a great example of how beautifully useful language can be: one word to convey all that. ‘Troubadour’ isn’t usually associated with someone who has rock ‘n’ roll sensibility but there’s no reason it couldn’t be. In Westmoreland’s case, it fits.
While this is Westmoreland’s solo debut, it’s not his first rodeo: he was in a band called The Kingdom that sounds like it had very little in common, musically, with his sound now. That sound is country rock of the type that sounds laidback if you couldn’t detect that the person making it was not at all lackadaisical about making it. It is country roads and late nights on a bar stool. It is hints of Neil Diamond and Willie Nelson and even a bit of Kenny Rogers – and if you think those references sound cheesy, you haven’t been listening hard enough to the music those fine pop/rock/country artisans have produced.
Westmoreland’s experience shows in the fact that these songs sound like they have been written carefully without being overworked, and he sings them as if he’s had time to let them mature for a while until he understands exactly how they need to be conveyed. There’s dirt under the fingernails of these songs, either because they’ve hauled themselves up from underneath or because they’ve dug for their own roots. They’re sturdy, and while there’s darkness in them, there’s also a fair bit of reaching for the sun.
This album will carry you along with it, and bewitch you a bit too, so the next time this troubadour comes to town, you’ll no doubt welcome his arrival.
Chuck Westmoreland is out now.