‘Tyson is a throwback. A purist. The real-deal. What a relief!’
Review by Emma Swift.
Cale Tyson – High On Lonesome (Independent)
As a long-time fan of old-school country music, some times I get distressed about the future of the genre. I’ve heard one too many terrible songs about making out in parking lots this year. I’ve been stranded in bars in rural Australia listening to Taylor Swift cover bands. I’ve spent more than a few amused hours people watching on Nashville’s famous Lower Broadway.
It’s hard to defend country music against accusations of cheesiness or artlessness when, for the most part, it is cheesy and artless. Still, I love the genre. Listening to Cale Tyson’s independently released High On Lonesome EP, I’m reminded why. Tyson is a throwback. A purist. The real-deal. What a relief.
Recorded in Nashville, High On Lonesome takes cues from Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and George Jones. It’s a good fit for Tyson, whose voice and songs recall the golden days of traditional country music. The EP’s opening track ‘Honky Tonk Moan’ is a perfect example, a sweet longing melody sung over crying pedal steel and an old time band you might imagine hearing on a dim-lit dive bar jukebox circa 1957. Other highlights include ‘Not Missin’ You’ – a letting-love-go ballad sung with tender resignation over a simple, pretty arrangement and ‘Long Gone Girl’ which belongs in a low-budget Western film shot in Texas on a shoe-string and a prayer.
The Lone Star State is the place where Cale Tyson was born and raised and not surprisingly it pops up geographically in the lyrics from time to time, alongside his adopted state of Tennessee. Like fellow Texan Robert Ellis, who has also recently made a home of Nashville, and like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark before them, there’s a sense that the best kind of country music resides in the space between those two states, one famous for raising the best kind of songwriters, the other famous for becoming a second-home for those melody-makers when they are trying to crack the big-time.
It would be a mistake to say that Cale Tyson aspires to be a capital ‘C’ Country Star, since the kind of country music being pushed by major labels these days would make Waylon Jennings weep. Still, High On Lonesome shows that Tyson is a legitimate songwriting talent who doesn’t feel the need to be a big star. He just wants to play the music he loves for the people who love that kind of music.
Listening to High On Lonesome is like finding a dusty old radio in an attic somewhere that still works but only if you leave it on the classic country station. And that, my friend, is just fine by me.
Cale Tyson, High On Lonesome is out now.