by James Fleming
Country is a minefield of a genre. It encompasses everything from outlaw country to Nashville’s much maligned pop-country and each side, populated by hillbillies and teenage girls as they are, is quite content to sling flaming arrows at any one who dare degrades their beloved Taylor Swift or badass Willie Nelson.
Here in Ireland, the state of country music is pretty dire. The Emerald Isle has been, since the dawn of time it would appear, stampeded by herds of touring country singers, singing songs so cringeworthy that even Rodney Carrington would bow his head in defeat.
It’s a difficult seam to mine; littered with clichés and misery as it is. But it’s a seam that Comrad mines exquisitely.
Devoid of some of the more traditional trappings of country music, his debut EP 10 Feet Away is a fresh breath of originality. Where most country music is very trebly, that is to say; shrill, there’s a tremendous amount of depth to his sound. From the jazzy sevenths of Flying Cars to the humour and horn lines of Full of Texas, Comrad’s debut restores faith in an often dismissed genre.
No piercing twang, no over-use of country’s usual references (i.e trucks, beer, mama, prison, etc), 10 Feet Away is a thrilling listen. Full of the wry humour of country music and the passion that’s supposed to come with that territory, but is so often overlooked.
Fancy fretwork and outstanding lyricism abound, setting him apart from even the people he claims influenced him, which includes such talented figures as Paul Simon and Tom Petty.
If Jeff Buckley’s Grace album had a sense of humour it would have included 80 Proof Waltz among its stellar track list. Date With Jesus is downright jaunty. It sounds almost vaudeville. But that’s not a bad thing. For what’s more purely entertaining than vaudeville?
1000 Lives acoustic guitar intro sounds dangerously like Mumford and Sons. But, Comrad rescues the tune wonderfully with an infectious beat, some brass section embellishing and more trademark dry humour. The tremolo inflected guitar chord that heralds in Full of Texas speaks volumes to the listener, letting them know this is possibly the standout track on a record of standout tracks.
10 Feet Away is an outstanding debut. It proves the naysayers wrong and shows us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and its name is Comrad.