Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas debut album One Fifty Five is a rarity of modern times in that it is a true blue country record. It hasn’t been bogged down by a longstanding institution that is now more concerned with churning out pop stars than telling honest tales of the soul. It’s not an album that pushes the genre forward, but it’s definitely worthy of putting on while driving late at night. There is just something so familiar, comforting and intimate about good country music and THIS is what GOOD country music sounds like.
Like any country record worth a damn, One Fifty Five deals with pretty universal feelings. Many of the songs are about the open road and leaving life behind. The lyrics deal with heartache, nostalgia, loneliness, but also excitement at the prospects of what may lie on the other side. If you find yourself at a crossroads, these songs may do wonders for you. As I wrote this review and listened to this music, I found myself asking where MY life might be headed. I’m an aspiring artist myself, and like many, I spend way too much time wondering when my day in the sun will be; is this journey really worth taking?
There is always something cathartic in hearing someone else echo your own hopes and fears and any effective songwriter knows how to make such an important connection with a listener. They can make you feel as if they are right next to you. Chris Landry is such a songwriter. His lyrics aren’t particularly complex but the emotions behind them are. His reedy voice can be best compared to vintage country singers like Willie Nelson and John Prine, but there is a little bit of a rock edge in there too that lends comparison to Tom Petty and Jeff Tweedy.
Most of the songs here would be fine additions to the enormous country music songbook, but there are two classics that are deserving above all others. “Writing to Explain” is a catchy, carefree number that features an earworm of a guitar riff and soothing slide work courtesy of Stuart Rutherford. Landry sings of breaking free from the shackles of a constricting home-life. Although there is a joyful tone to the music, there is a slight sense of guilt in his performance showing that it’s never completely easy to leave your loved ones behind. Then there is the soulful “As The Nights Go Shuffling Down”, which is easily the most beautiful song on the record. The subtle synth and lead guitar work of Jim McDowell and Dave Arguing, as well as Kerri Carisse’s sweet backing vocals really sell this slow-moving epic that is reminiscent of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
One Fifty Five isn’t without its weaknesses. Like most country albums, it is lacking in diversity. It’s when the band tries to break out of their formula that things go slightly askew. The title track is 27 seconds of slide guitar coming out of what sounds like an old transistor radio, and even though it’s trying to set the mood, it ends up being rather forgettable. “Turn Back The Clock” is the weak spot of the album, as it features two hokey monologues instead of verses and a chorus that doesn’t really go anywhere. No matter, take these two tracks away and you have a pretty flawless country record. Considering that this isn’t too common in the 21st century, One Fifty Five is an album that every old-school country fan should definitely own.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy