My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Jamie Richards – ‘Sideways’

Jamie Richards is one of those solid Texan country singers who has been forging a regional career without troubling national radio. He is signed to the Daily family’s Houston-based D Records, which has just released his fourth album (the earlier ones are well worth checking out, too). He has a rich voice full of character with a distinctive slightly grainy tone, excellent relaxed phrasing. He spent some time as a staff songwriter for Curb in Nashville and wrote all but three of the songs here, most of which are very good. He also produced the record with Greg White.

The album opens with a five–song sequence of sad, mainly mid-tempo, songs about failing to get over an ex, and as he mentions some lows and highs in his personal life in the liner notes, these may be autobiographical. My favorite track is the chugging ‘Half Drunk’. This solo composition has the broken-hearted protagonist regretting his inability to drown his sorrows due to lack of cash:

You were too good to be true
I guess that’s why you weren’t…

It takes more than just a few of my favorite ice-cold beers
Hell, I’ll break out the Jack and Coke and I’ll make you disappear
Oh but you’ll be back when I come down and remember how it could have been
So for now I’ll do my best to forget you once again

I’m sittin’ here half drunk
Cause I ran out of money
Yeah I would’a been all the way
If I’d’a had just one more 20

Almost as good is ‘A Whole Lot Lonely’ (embarrassingly misspelt ‘Lonley’ on the cover), another intensely honest post-breakup number involving the protagonist talking to a drink-induced hallucination of his ex, and apologising to her shade for that real-life call at 3 a.m., explaining sadly:

I was a little drunk
But a whole lot lonely

The equally downbeat ‘Easier By Now’ (another excellent song) finds the singer still struggling with the memories despite the passage of years:

It should be easier by now
I should have long forgot that smile
Even after all this time and all the love I pushed aside
I always come back to you somehow

The title track seems to date back to Jamie’s time writing for Curb, and is a co-write with former Curb artist Ken Mellons. It’s a fine song with a resigned feel about struggling to find equilibrium after the end of a relationship; he knows drinking isn’t the answer, but it’s the only option.

The outside material includes the insidiously melancholy ballad ‘When Love Leaves’, written by Bart Butler, Tomas Calame, and Joel Shewmake, written in the second person but clearly inspired by the protagonist’s bitter personal experience, comparing the changes of falling in love to those of losing it:

You’ll be as lonely as a man can get
Curse the day you ever met
Your world comes crashing down
Along with all your dreams
When love leaves

You find love
There’s no denying
Feeling’s real
Without even trying
You let down your guard
She’ll break your heart
Build your walls a little bigger
Wear your skin a little thicker
Swear up and down you don’t miss her
But you know you do

The mood and tempo both pick up with a convincing cover of Haggard’s ‘Makeup And Faded Blue Jeans’. It is followed by something more low-key and poetic than the more straightforward country songs which dominate the album. The emotionally intense if lyrically oblique song about illicit love ‘Silver Cross’ is written by Jamie with Walt Wilkins and Sean Patrick McGraw and is reminiscent of the songs on Wilkins’ Vigil album which I recommended recently, both melodically and thematically:

Silver cross around your neck
You’re lying there against your skin
Beggin’ for one more regret
And I know the taste of sin

But I will suffer with this desire
Because I burn this wanting you
God forgive me
God forgive me
What I do

I am whiskey in your fire
I will die to know your mystery
I am a sinner and a liar
Nail me to a crooked tree

Walt also helped Jamie write ‘Down The Road’, where a man with a “restless soul” moves on from potential commitment without much regret:

Though you might want me to stay
Oh but I’m not made that way
So I’ll go on down the road

I’m wide awake while you’re sleeping
The only sound is your breathing
As these walls seem to be creepin’ in on me
By this time tomorrow
When you’re filled with sorrow
Spare your heart and don’t follow cause I’ll be
Down the road

In an altogether happier mood, ‘Enjoy The Ride’ (written by Jamie with Jason Deere) finds the protagonist getting close to a new love interest but not wanting to define it too closely just yet, and ‘Broken Through’ is a very sweet and warmly delivered love song about the wonder of falling in real love for the first time, with a pretty tune.

There a couple of tracks which are less impressive; the okay but forgettable ‘I Can Party When I Need To’ closes the album with an affirmation of growing older but still able to live it up on occasion. The most disappointing song choice, though, is Billy Lawson and newly crowned ACM New Artist of the Year Luke Bryan’s ‘Rural Route’, a cliché-ridden and melody-deficient “I’m country” song which is overproduced and generic enough to be perfectly home on country radio’s more unimaginative playlists.

Overall, though, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and unmistakably country record from a fine singer and songwriter who deserves a wider audience.

Grade: A

Available from Amazon, iTunes and other outlets.

3 responses to “Album Review: Jamie Richards – ‘Sideways’

  1. Pingback: A Hug From Taylor Swift; Lady Antebellum Goes Double Platinum; Wynonna Partners with Cracker Barrel | The 9513

  2. Pingback: Some hidden treasures of 2010 « My Kind Of Country

  3. Jeff Willis January 9, 2011 at 2:14 am

    A good review of Sideways by an artist that definitely
    deserves a larger audience.

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