Having been working on the album for more than 2 years, every moment of effort Grant Maloy Smith put into creating this new collection, Dust Bowl: American Stories, comes through on every track, though some fare much better than others.
“Old Black Roller” kicks off the collection with a simple guitar rhythm – so simple in fact that when put with the few lyrics the song features it may be skipped over entirely – it doesn’t get things off to a great start. “Lily Of The Valley” fares better, helped by the use of more instrumentation and the vocal has more passion behind it, which is always a great way of drawing in an audience.
“So Far Away” is perhaps the stand-out track on the album. With a great drum beat and uplifting, toe-tapping percussion, the track blends musicianship, lyrics and a superb vocal performance almost effortlessly to create a number which, if there’s any justice, will be played time and time again by those who hear it. “Ride That Train” is also a strong inclusion on the collection, working hard to match the upbeat tempo if its predecessor, so it’s a little disappointing to find that “Isht a Lhampko (Have Strength) slows things down and ruins the momentum the album had just started to pick up.
There’s a real country twang to “Me Time” that those who aren’t die-hard country fans might not like, but I dare anyone who hears it to try and not grin or tap their toes once the rhythm kicks in. The emotion contained within “Pushing Back The Wind” makes the track ideal for anyone wanting something to reflect on a moment or event in their life to, and “Never Seen The Rain” is lyrically simplistic but the return of an uptempo rhythm more than makes up for it.
Maloy tends to swing from one extreme to the other and does so again on “All The Long Way”, cutting short the building energy of some tracks and replacing them with sombre, stripped back numbers- like this one – which risk being overlooked. Fortunately, he swings the slow-fast pendulum quite often and so while “ATLW” is sure to be skipped over by some, the same most likely won’t be said of “I Come From America” – give it a listen and you’ll see and hear why.
The most emotive number on the album, “Daddy If You Have To Go”, held particular resonance with me, and, for those who have lost a loved one, it will surely do the same. “And The Rain Comes Down” meanwhile doesn’t hit as hard, but there’s something about the lyrics such as “I’ve been known to sit and watch the starlight turn to dawn” that makes it one of the most reflective and thoughtful songs Smith’s ever written.
Quite why Grant Maloy Smith included a reprise of “Old Black Roller” to close out the collection I personally don’t know, and the reality it doesn’t work, but nevertheless, the 12 diverse tracks that preceded it cement his place as a country staple with a twist. His songs might not get the airplay that the likes of Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum do, but certain ones certainly pack a punch, reconnecting the listener with aspects of reality in a way few artists in today’s day and age can do.