Album Spotlight: Various Artists, ‘Southern Family’
Producer Dave Cobb's commitment to crafting an album full of stories about life in the rural South is absolute. With Southern Family, 12 artists turned in songs about Southern culture, traditions and grandparents ... lots and lots of grandparents.
John Paul White of the Civil Wars, Zac Brown and Brandy Clark are three who sing nostalgic songs about grandpa or grandma. The raw, acoustic nature of their songs ("Simple Song," "Grandma's Garden" and "I Cried," respectively) is as thin and simple as one's wardrobe in the sweltering Southern heat. With the exception of Anderson East's "Learning" (about his father), this is a back porch kind of record.
"Learning" and to a lesser extent Rich Robinson's "The Way Home" amp up a mood that mostly hangs heavy like Spanish moss. Each story is personal; in some cases, too personal to be appreciated on a mainstream level. Commercial success is not (and has never been) Cobb's goal, however. He wanted to capture what life in the Deep South is like, and he's done it.
"You Are My Sunshine" is in every way the album's centerpiece. It comes near the halfway point, and at six-plus minutes it's a monster of a song. Lyrically this song deviates from Cobb's theme, but few will notice and even fewer will complain. This is Morgane Stapleton's introduction, and she owns this song. After a riveting one-note guitar solo that bends and explodes into something bigger, the arrangement settles to give her room to cry out, "But if you leave me, to love another / You'll regret it all some day," as her husband Chris Stapleton bangs away on his hollow-body guitar.
It's dark and cold enough to freeze a tumor, and by far the most sensory experience on Southern Family. This album paints pictures, in most beautiful still life portraits.
Key Tracks: “God Is a Working Man,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Mama’s Table”
Did You Know?: Brent Cobb is Dave's cousin, sort of. The two didn't know each other until relatively recently, and they're not technically cousins (their respective grandfathers are brothers). Still, Brent has a song on this album, sings harmonies and co-wrote Miranda Lambert's "Sweet By and By," and is preparing a solo album produced by Dave.
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