The King Has Gone Home (Brent Cobb, Providence Canyon review)

A distinct sound. A fun time. Something for everyone. That’s what this album offers.

 

Brent Cobb – Providence Canyon

released May 11, 2018
******** 8/10

Brent Cobb is an American singer, songwriter and musician who plays country music tinged with Americana, southern rock and outlaw leanings. To-date, he has released three studio albums – No Place Left to Leave (2006) Shine on Rainy Day (2016) and Providence Canyon (2018). Now if you are wondering why the gap between his first album, and his second album, it’s because No Place Left to Leave was recorded on the Beverly Martel label with his established producer cousin Dave Cobb.

During this space of time, Cobb moved to Nashville in 2008, landed a songwriting contract with Carnival Music Publishing, and began writing for prominent artists. Namely, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney and a whole host of others. When he released an EP in 2012, he was able to leverage it into performances opening for Blake Shelton, Sara Evans, and other well-known artists. And then Cobb landed a spot on Dave Cobb’s compilation record Southern Family. When he finally got onto major label Low Country Sound, he was able to release a major studio record, earning himself a Grammy Nomination and deserved attention.

How’s that for exposition?

Now let’s consider his third record, Providence Canyon.

This album continues the trend of overt Americana notes, and has a distinct conversational tone, often focusing on where he’s been, where he’s going and what he loves about his hometown. Filled to the brim with details about old rifles, fallen friends, and monetizing the freedom of the road, Cobb is just as comfortable crooning about red clay walls (Providence Canyon) as he is reflecting on his time with Willie Nelson (Come Home Soon), and there is a spirituality contained in each track to boot.

Of course there are songs like Mornin’s Gonna Come and Sucker For A Good Time that focus primarily on sleeping around and the consequences of it, like say the reality of running into the girls boyfriend the morning after. Another common theme to be sure, but his presentation has a great indie country flavour, and fits in perfectly with the overall tone of the album.

Another great track is his ode to Wayne Mills, and the first single of the album. King of Alabama is a particularly eclectic tribute to his late comrade and yet another reminder of where Cobb comes from. Which as mentioned features strongly throughout the whole record, but I think it’s less of a thematic tool and more a demonstration of his character and what he cares about.

When we get into the final song, Ain’t A Road Too Long, it’s been quite a journey. But Cobb doesn’t pull his punches here either. This is probably one of my favourite songs as it is an especially haunting exploration about what happens when you life a life on the road. The natural ups and downs, but more importantly, the way an escape form becomes a job.

These are gritty stories that manage to work well across Cobb’s already established choice musical styles, and there is even some funk found in the middle of the album with .30-06. Yet another great track that talks about a wife’s infidelity and a jealous threat using a classic hunting rifle as weapon of choice. That said, I’m also partial to High In The Country and Lorene as they call back to 1970s outlaw country.

Pros: It sets the bar even higher then his last album did, and save a couple weaker tracks, it is a really solid listening experience. King of Alabama and Ain’t A Road Too Long are great 2018 summer songs.

Cons: For whatever reason, the backing vocals and the tone of both If I Don’t See Ya and When The Dust Settles are a little mundane for me, and don’t have any staying power.

Runtime: 34 minutes

Points of Interest:

This is the kind of album that is immediately enjoyable, but also bears some weight as you spend more time with it, giving it a natural progression and lots of layers to unpeel. But that is the way that Brent Cobb writes, he’s happy to share intricacies of his life, if it means a more intricate song can come out of the labour. Yes, these are well-worn themes, but what makes them inspired comes from the delivery method, Cobb focuses on things he cares about, and so that makes them interesting to the casual listener.

theories Summarized

Okay here are my final thoughts.

If a musician can open up for Chris Stapleton and still retain their stage presence, then that is an artist worth listening to. That, and super producer Dave Cobb is the  voice behind both artists. Brent Cobb’s Providence Canyon is an album of both internal and external geography, and it never sounds preachy on either front. A definite add to your collection.

And speaking of solo artists who just don’t know how to quit what they know, Brendon and I have a Sound Culture video on Caribou’s The Milk of Human Kindness. Dan Snaith is a mathematician, composer and musician that makes electronic music to melt your ears to.

And if you like either of these album reviews or both of them, please like and share the video, and of course, please subscribe to the blog and channel for more awesome theories on the arts! Tomorrow I have some thoughts on Batman Ninja.

Tim!

Traumatic Disorder (Hostiles review)

The life of a soldier is oft met with tragedy, both on the battlefront, and at home. But what happens when his battlefield is in his hometown? Prejudice, trauma, and an unhealthy mixture of isolation abound.

 

Hostiles (2017)

Cast: Rosamund Pike, Christian Bale, Wes Studi, Jonathan Majors, Stephen Lang, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster
Director: Scott Cooper
released on blu-ray Apr 24, 2018
******* 7/10

IMDB: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, Audience Score 72%
The Guardian: ***

Scott Cooper is an American Director, screenwriter, producer, and sometimes actor. His list of director credits include Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace, Black Mass, and now Hostiles. Having been active in the industry since 1998, Cooper spent the first decade of his career in the television industry, taking small acting roles before fully realizing that writing and directing was far more rewarding.

His directorial debut, Crazy Heart is nothing short of captivating, and shows a side of country music most of us miss. Plus, Jeff Bridges is amazing in it, so obviously Cooper recognizes casting quality over quantity. Hostiles also features a smaller cast and as it takes place in the late 19th century, has an authentic western flavour, but it’s not a misguided cowboys and indians kind of flick.

Special thanks to Nick Riganas for the IMDB summary of the film –

In 1892, after nearly two decades of fighting the Cheyenne, the Apache, and the Comanche natives, the United States Cavalry Captain and war hero, Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale), is ordered to escort the ailing Cheyenne chief, Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi)–his most despised enemy–to his ancestral home in Montana’s Valley of the Bears. Nauseated with a baleful anger, Joseph’s unwelcome final assignment in the feral American landscape is further complicated, when the widowed settler, Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), is taken in by the band of soldiers, as aggressive packs of marauding Comanches who are still on the warpath, are thirsty for blood. In a territory crawling with hostiles, can the seasoned Captain do his duty one last time?

What I loved about this movie is also what I ultimately hated about it. If I might be so contrarian. I’ve always been a fan of westerns as a young boy, and I attribute a lot of that love to the relationship I have with my father and grandfather, who were both small-town farmers. It wasn’t until my dad moved to the “big city” in his late twenties, met my mom, and had me that the lifestyle cycle started to shift. Either way, they both love westerns, and I have a kinship with anything associated with it.

Hostiles is not your classic John Wayne, Yul Brenner or Lee Van Cleef story – where the heroes and villains are depicted by how long their shadows cast. There is serious consideration of the effect of colonization on indigenous peoples and no ethnic group is cast in a particularly strong light of altruism and rightness, instead each character is morally ambiguous, having both good and bad qualities, just like life should be. But lines are drawn to show both groups and the impact each has on the other. And Cooper does an excellent job of depicting the effects of war and colonization.

Now, what I hinted at about loving, is that in it’s longer run, it tells a great western story, but for that same reason, it doesn’t give characters like Yellow Hawk room to breathe. Which is incredibly frustrating to watch, because Wes Studi is such a legendary actor. Sure Christian Bale and Rosamond Pike are great, and it’s awesome to see how their characters evolve, but if a third protagonist had been given due exposure, this movie would have been phenomenal.

Pros: It challenges our conventions of history and the stories constructed to retell that history. It’s by no means flattering to any party, but as a result it simultaneously feels more raw and empathetic. While not an innovation of the form, Rosamund Pike and Christian Bale deliver great performances.

Cons: The pacing is incredibly slow, and the inclusion of additional characters in the third act feels forced, drawing away from an examination of characters, and into a broader back story for Blocker, which is unnecessary at that point. But again I ask, where is the development of Chief Yellow Hawk and his family?

Runtime: 2 hours 14 minutes

Points of Interest: The film was shot in chronological order, and because it takes place mostly outdoors, the cast was exposed to the elements a lot. Production was shut down on a few occasions to account for weather. This is the second western Christian Bale has starred in – the first being 3:10 to Yuma remake.

It’s amazing to see how the life of Blocker has been shaped by living on a battlefield, and that because the American frontier is filled with tribes and peoples all trying to find their space, he never really gets to rest. Even more interesting that his final mission means escorting one of his early enemies home, and that they come to a better understanding of each other in the process, is very meaningful. I just wish I had seen more perspective from the Chief.

theories Summarized

A couple of final thoughts from me. Whether or not you enjoy westerns, this film is a great candidate to exposure of what western films have meant for American citizens for over a century now. They are effectively a propaganda told through the eyes of the victors. What hostiles does, is try to tell the story in a more nuanced way.

Yes, it does ultimately fall short of it’s goal, both due to pacing and character development, but the parts it succeeds at are well worth the struggle.

Speaking of struggles. I wanted to share this Watch Culture video I did on one of my all-time favourite animated classics – The Last Unicorn. Heavily influenced by classical literature, this is another movie which features Jeff Bridges in a voicing acting role, is directed by the team of Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. AND the band America did the soundtrack.

It’s highly underrated, in my humble opinion, but I hope this review gives you a chance to check it out or dust it off, as it were!

Lastly, please let me know what you thought of both of these reviews on love, like and share the video, and subscribe to the channel (and email) if you haven’t already. Lots more theories to come!

Tim!