Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Coal Men: “Pushed To The Side” (2016) CD Review

On The Coal Men’s new release, Pushed To The Side, the band delivers some compelling narratives and interesting characters, all set in the country realm. These songs boast some excellent lyrics, and many are, in one way or another, about trying to make connections between people. All of these songs were written or co-written by Dave Coleman, who also produced and mixed these tracks. The Coal Men are Dave Coleman on vocals, guitar, mandolin, pedal steel and percussion; Dave Ray on drums, percussion and backing vocals; and Paul Slivka on bass. On this album they are joined by Seth Timbs on keys. This is the band’s fifth full-length CD, following 2013’s Escalator.

They kick off the CD with “Depreciate,” opening with a cool drumbeat, before the song settles into a gorgeous, dark country groove. That vibe fits well with the song’s lyrics, the first lines being “I'm running out of steam, friends/I need a pint of blood.” The song is from the perspective of an old car, drawing on that strong connection between people and automobiles. Because of course these lines apply to people too: “I'm nearly ready for the junkyard/Counting down the miles/I can't remember all my travels.” Yes, it’s kind of depressing, especially as lines like these feel more and more relevant as we get older. But there is something sweet about the feel of this one too. And check out these lines: “Thank you for all the cold nights/Thank you for summer days/I hope to stay in your memory/After you send me on my way.” “Depreciate” was written by Dave Coleman and Seth Timbs.

That’s followed by the CD’s title track, “Pushed To The Side,” which was written by Dave Coleman and Taylor Bates. This song is peopled by sad characters that might seem familiar in a peripheral way, touching on how sometimes people you don’t know can strongly affect you (if perhaps only for a brief moment): “Ooh, don’t the lonely break your heart/Ooh, don’t some people just break your heart/Ooh, it’s the lonely, lonely broken ones that break your little heart.” And I love these lines: “Well, she can’t go back on the things that are already done/She just crossed her fingers and stuck out her thumbs/It is what it is when you leave someone/It is what it is when you leave someone/Can’t hold on to the light of the setting sun.” Interestingly, the following song, “The Payoff,” opens with these lines: “The world is full of people capable of things you thought/Nobody could be capable of/They’ll break your heart and that’s the start/They’ll cut you and laugh at your scars.” And so there is an initial connection between the two songs, though the tones are quite different. “The Payoff,” written by Dave Coleman and Seth Timbs, has more of a country pop vibe. These are the lines that stood out for me the first time I listened to this disc: “Another star that wants to shine/Twice as bright for half the time.”  Great, right?

“Willy Jett” is one of my favorites. It’s one of those songs that create a strong character and story, in this case a man working in the coal camps who tries to create a break from work for himself. “Bought a new suit of clothes, pinstripes and rows/Trying to hide the worn out away.” Though probably few of us work with coal, most people can relate to being desperate for something more, and failing to have it realized. My favorite lines are: “Willy came down from the coal camp/Dreaming of a woman on his arm/And he found one down at the corner/Lilly took him with all of her charms/The voice he heard was the sweetest sound/But it was only for that night/It was lonely he found still hanging around/Come the morning light.” (And Lilly gets her own song in “Lilly Hurst.”)  “Willy Jett” was written by Dave Coleman and Jeff Wickland.

“Speeding Like A Demon” is a fun country driving song about trying to get to a show on time. This is one I’ll be adding to my road trip mix CD song list. It was written by Dave Coleman, Stephen Simmons and David Palmer. “Stones River” has something of a sweet folk feel. It was written by Dave Coleman and Bob Delevante (whom you likely know for his own solo career). Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Cleared the land with bare hands/Get a fire going, it's gonna be cold tonight/Yes we're losing light/Down on Stones River.”

Another favorite is the CD’s final track, “The Singer (In Louisville),” which begins like a punk song, with that great bass line, and maintains a sort of punk attitude. It’s country punk, and is based on a short story by Tommy Womack. This song is about an aging singer who has reached a certain level on a local circuit, but whose career hasn’t gone any farther. “I know he's hurting, in fact in pain/Now that they're asking for ‘Fire And Rain.’"

CD Track List
  1. Depreciate
  2. Pushed To The Side
  3. The Payoff
  4. Willy Jett
  5. Fast Rider
  6. Lilly Hurst
  7. Faithless Eyes
  8. Travis
  9. Speeding Like A Demon
  10. A Name
  11. Stones River
  12. The Singer (In Louisville)
Pushed To The Side was released on August 19, 2016 on Vaskaleedez Records.

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