I typically don’t like albums with too much historic aka previously released material. The songs on The Sonic Ranch are old recordings – but this time, I will not argue against them. The album is a movie soundtrack, which documents the formation of the band Midland. The Texas traditionalists accentuate the documentation with some of their very early, unpublished recording. The album has been released on 19th Match 2021.
Midland – About The Artists
What would describe the band history better than a press kit statement about the album? In the spring of 2014 we took 11 days out of our very separate lives to head down to the Sonic Ranch, a studio nestled along the dusty American side of the Rio Grande outside El Paso, Texas. This is the beginning of the story of The Sonic Ranch. The trio of Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy released two studio albums so far – you find my review of Let It Roll on Flyctory.com. The posting also contains some more band bio.
Midland – The Sonic Ranch – Track by Track
The twelve song album lasts 42 minutes.
1. Fourteen Gears (Adobe House Version)
Overall, you have to say that The Sonic Ranch sounds a bit more calm and traditional, compared to other Midland albums. This applies for the opening song as well. Fourteen Gears in this album version has the nice melody, but also feels a bit bored and sleepy. Still a nice listen.
2. Cowgirl Blues
The Cowgirl Blues is coming with a nice clapping rhythm, which leads to a nice groove. Listening to this blues definitely gives you some energy.
3. Worn Out Boots
Just like my worn out boots
Where the rain comes through
I was empty deep down inside but
When I hold you I
I feel alright and
When I hold you I
I feel alright
The steel guitar sound in Worn Out Boots and the work on the drums gives Worn Out Boots the touch of a nice saloon song. I like the multi-vocal recorded chorus.
4. Champagne For The Pain
Ain’t it just a damn shame how it
Never tastes the same? And a
Sparkling wine was once for the good times but
Champagne’s for the pain
Songs with references to the consumption play a major role in the history of the band. Good to know that there were already musical Drinking Problems at the beginning of the band’s career. Indeed, the vibe of the song reminds me a bit of the band’s biggest sucess so far. Nice song.
5. Will This Life Be As Grand
I initially struggled with this slower track. But the longer the acoustic guitar is adding chords in a remarkable monotony, the more I will Will This Life Be As Grand. The vocals are beautifully arranged. The song feels so simple, even a bit of filthily recorded. But it leads to a very special styles, which finally makes you listen to the whole song without even daring to think about skipping this track.
6. Fool’s Luck
Spend enough time around
This nowhere small town
Sooner or later you’re gonna see what kind of
Trouble can be found
And I was just sixteen
Feelin’ ornery and mean
The Lord took two of my friends that year
And left me somewhere in between
And if I run outta that fool’s luck
Oh I’ll come out alright
Just as long as you’re here by my side
Based on these early works, it is very interesting to me to study the development of the band to the country music starts they are today. Fool’s Luck could be a today’s recording as well. The song feels very mature and the songwriting comes with the touch of irony and sense of humor Midland fans love of their idols. Really good song.
In the nowadays world of country music, Midland might be one of the bands, who do best in making traditional style country music feel modern and not old-fashioned at all. Whiskey is a perfect example. It has the melody and rhythm of a 1960’s country classic – but it is still very Midland-ish, ain’t it? One of my favorites on the album.
8. She’s A Cowgirl
You need some traditional country for the romantic moments? Maybe then you like She’s A Cowgirl! The song with its slow rhythm and very limited background instrumentation just would not be complete without a hug. Thus, this one is dangerous – don’t forget we are still in a pandemic.
9. Runnin’ Wild
After that slow episode, the ninth track is quicker again and comes with a nice rhythm and steel guitar sounds. The core of Running’ Wild is hwoever the amamzing vocal performance by Wystrach. Great one!
10. Texas Is The Last Stop
You haven’t felt like a fancy dance yet? Then Texas Is The Last Stop is likely the game changer. The fast rhythm and the catchy melodic just has to make you move – lovely song.
11. Cowgirl Blues (Jess Carson Vocal)
Interesting opportunity for Midland fans: Here we go again – this is Cowgirl Blues for the second time on the album. The key difference? While Wystrach took over the microphone on the second song of the album, it is now up to Jess Carson to take over the melodic storytelling. Which one do you prefer? I have to surprisingly admit that I go with this track.
12. This Town
And this house ain’t a home
These old boards just creak and moan
Since you been gone
And this street’s full of holes
Folks used to stop and say hello
But they don’t anymore
There are a lot of home town or home village songs in country music. This is another one – but it is not too romantic and praising country life. The more, it deals with the changes happening even in these places, out there in the US countryside.
Midland – The Sonic Ranch – Spotify
Here is The Sonic Ranch on Spotify:
Midland – The Sonic Ranch – My View
I’m sorry, guys! I (again) have to admit that I am not the biggest Midland fan out there. But that does not prevent me from neutrally looking at their musical trip to The Sonic Ranch. Without a doubt, they did a great job there. The songs feel like Midland already (even in this early stage of their band history) and they just got this special touch. You just cannot feel that these Texas tunes are outdated in whatever way. Really good album!
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