Refreshingly simple, straightforward, unpretentious, raw, and real, Colby Acuff’s Western White Pines immediately requires you to make room in your listening rotation for another album and artist that’s bound to become one of your favorites. As Acuff proves here, this isn’t rocket science. Just write and sing good songs, and keep it country. It just happens to be that Colby Acuff makes it all feel so effortless and organic in a way that immediately warms you to his music.
Back in the mid 60s, it was like a feeding frenzy with record labels trying to sign any psychedelic rocker on the West Coast. These days with the success of guys like Colter Wall, Tyler Childers, and Zach Bryan, it feels similar in country and roots music.
Just a few short months ago, Colby Acuff was sending out his own pitch emails to press and such. Now he’s signed to Sony Music Nashville. A native of Idaho with the West very much in his blood, perhaps the suits see him as a Colter Wall equivalent. Either way, you can’t question Sony’s acquisition here. Colby has that “it” factor that has weighed heavily in the success of so many independent country artists.
First finding success with the title track of his 2021 album “If I Were the Devil,” Colby Acuff settles into his easy style of singing and writing that pulls almost equally from Western and Outlaw country influences. Call it Outlaw and Western if you will, it’s not entirely novel or especially involved, but it’s the laid back attitude that Acuff brings to this music that makes it so endearing. You feel like you’re on a back porch with him, plucking strings and singing tunes, and Colby’s voice is perfect for this vocation.
The song “Western White Pines” is just a simple piece of poetry, but it feels prophetic in Colby Acuff’s hands. Can a song about a boy and his dog and bologna sandwiches really seize your attention span? Colby Acuff’s can. Growing up enjoying the simple pleasures of life in the West, it’s not hard for Acuff to write and sing about such things, and folks born in the West or stuck in the mundane drudgery of life back east to appreciate the sincerity or escapism he provides.
But there is an Outlaw side to how Colby Acuff approaches life and music too that he spells out in certain tracks. After studying finance in college and finding himself on the path to becoming a suit himself, clearly at some point Colby’s Honky Tonk Heroes kicked in and steered him away from that. A major label may have released this album, but it’s all of Colby’s songs and his fiercely independent approach.
Trying to define an “Outlaw” is just as contentious these days as trying to define “country,” but Colby Acuff does a pretty good job on the song “Outlaw In Me” when he says “It’s not about hats, tats, sound, or in between [country and rock]. It’s about not being wanted where you want to be.” Acuff also says he’s too Idaho for Texas and too Texas for Tennessee, which is as good of a description of his sound as any.
Though the songwriting isn’t something that you would consider outstanding, and there’s little that he does that’s innovative, Western White Pines is nonetheless an excellent listening album that is hard to not enjoy and find continued favor with over time. Colby Acuff exposes the simple pleasure of good country music, and you’re sure appreciative for it.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8.1/10)
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