My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Wynn Varble – ‘Freak Show’

wynnvarbleWynn Varble had been a successful songwriter for years without evident ambition of making it as an artist until he agreed to take party in CMT’s Next Superstar show a few years ago. He didn’t win, and was clearly cast as comic relief, but that made him the most entertaining aspect of that show. The title of new album Freak Show sounds as though it is a comedy record, but in fact is mixes up serious and funny songs. The production is competent but not inspired or subtle. Wynn is frankly a limited vocalist, without much range, so it is not surprising that it is the comedic material that works best for him, with a couple of genuinely funny numbers.

I loved ‘AA Meeting Gone Bad’, the simile for a disastrous family reunion. The comedy is broad but effective, with the protagonist correctly predicting the brawl that develops. Drunken criticisms lead to

Bunch of cousins cryin’
Blamin’ and denyin’
Like an AA meeting gone bad

The wife of the jailbird ex-preacher cousin declares,

“Your daddy was a Jones and you ain’t even really kin”
And the skeletons all started pilin’ out
Of the closets they were hidin’ in

It all ends with
A bunch of drunk men and women
Huggin’ and forgivin
Like an AA meeting gone bad

Keeping the song short and succinct at under three minutes helps the joke not to get overblown.

Varble co-wrote Easton Corbin’s ‘A Little More Country Than That’, but here he pokes a little fun at the country pride genre with the wry ‘A Little Too Country’. The self-proclaimed country boy narrator admits his hillbilly date(found online on is hot but just a little too much of a stereotype with unsophisticated tastes, missing teeth, and inbred family that put paid to this romance:

I thought I’d never say these words
But she’s a little too country for me

It is funny, but some will be offended by the very broad humor.

‘John Deere Letter’ is a mildly amusing story song about a farmer whose wife says goodbye in a note stuck to his tractor dashboard. The poor cuckolded husband mows his response in his field of wheat so his ex’s lover (a cropduster) can see it when flying overhead.

‘Freak Show’ critiques the ever –increasing excesses of modern TV reality shows. It’s loud and obnoxious, rather like its subject, which may be appropriate but makes it unappealing to listen to.

‘Right’ is a less successful attempt at humor, with a rambling and not very interesting story of a bar encounter. ‘Ever Been Down To Mexico’ seems to be intended to be a funny take on the downside of a vacation which becomes a gambling trip, but it too falls flat, while ‘The Hot Sign’s On’ is pretty dull.

Wynn’s limited vocals do rather let down the serious material, like the affecting ‘The You I Never Knew’. This has Wynn hearing stories he could never have imagined about his straitlaced father’s wild early life at the old man’s funeral. This is quite good and could have been great with a more emotive vocalist. Another good song with a serious message, ‘Out Bailing Hay’, contrasts industry bailouts with the American farmer just getting on with life, whatever disasters befall. The production on this is a bit heavy handed, but the song works well.

The wistful ‘Even The River Don’t Know’ is quite pretty, and deserves a better singer. Wynn’s wearied everyman vocal is more successful on ‘Like Old Cowboys Do’, a nicely observed portrait of a soldier dreaming of a future life on the range. The jazzy minor keyed ‘Youth Is Wasted On The Young’ is about wasted opportunities and spurned chances, and has some insight, while ‘World Goes Round’ is a rather pedestrian slice of philosophy of the cycle of life.

It’s always interesting to hear a songwriter interpreting his (or her) own material, and this is no exception, even when the vocals are not as good. There are some worthwhile tracks here – and Wynn has a real gift for comedy.

Grade: B-

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