Album Review – Kyle Nix and the 38’s – “After The Flood Vol. 1”

photo: Carley du Menil

When Turnpike Troubadours fiddle player Kyle Nix released his debut solo album in 2020 called Lightning on the Mountain, it was just as much a second plan as it was a side project. With Turnpike on indefinite hiatus and no answer if it would ever come back, it seemed like a smart move, and Nix proved himself to be up to the task of writing and singing songs, and fronting a band of his own.

Though it was Turnpike Troubadours frontman Evan Felker’s marital woes and rehab stint that in part put the legendary Red Dirt group on shaky ground and their name in checkout aisle rags, Kyle Nix was going through his own less gossiped about trip through rehab and divorce. The thoughts, moments, and frustrations with that divorce experience inspired the songs for his new album After the Flood, Vol. 1, recorded with a supergroup of characters behind him collectively known as the 38’s.

With the Turnpike Troubadours now reunited, touring, and readying their own new album on August 25th, it takes the pressure is off of Kyle Nix to make a new career in some respects, and instead he can completely focus on the artistry and expressing himself. The 38’s can also take on more of a collaborative effort where they’re friends first and bandmates second. That camaraderie and mutual respect comes through in the music, including Kyle allowing singer-songwriter Ken Pomeroy the latitude to sing a couple, and multi-instrumental Kevin “Haystack” Foster the same.

The instrumentation and arrangements may be loose and fun, but the songs are quite despondent. Kyle Nix holds back nothing in the articulation of his divorce proceedings, making this a quintessential country music divorce/breakup record if there ever was one. To match the acrid and contentious moments of the written material, the music of After The Flood often finds a rather angry and Outlaw country rock tone to it, though at times it turns very traditional country too.

Produced by Wes Sharon who is responsible for a lot of those great old Turnpike Troubadours albums, the instrumentation of After The Flood Vol. 1 is spicy, diverse, and entertaining. This includes the takeoff Jerry Reed-style guitar on the song “Close The Bets” and the hella fiddle sawing and string picking of “Hell & Half of Georgia.” But then they spring a super traditional country song on you with “One More Thing,” and then later a bluegrass song called “Train to Tennessee.”

Kyle Nix and the 38’s cast a wide net and offer a lot of entertainment value on this album, but most all the songs are about heartbreak and divorce specifically. Divorce and country music go together like peanut butter and jelly. But if you’ve not been through one or don’t dig on the drama, you might not be able to immerse yourself fully in this album, and instead find yourself cherry picking through the track list based more on the music.

Also joining Nix in the 38’s is former American Aquarium bass player Bill Corbin, guitarist Adam Duran, and Turnpike Troubadours drummer Gabriel Pearson. Some wondered after the Turnpike hiatus if Kyle would start contributing and fronting songs to the band sort of like bassist RC Edwards does. So far, that has not materialized. He could still fill in if someone pops a string, but Kyle Nix seems to be completely fine playing his part in the Turnpike universe, and saving his original stuff for this side project.

This arrangement allows Kyle Nix to do what he wants and follow his muse as opposed to catering stuff to the Turnpike audience specifically. If he happens to go through a nasty divorce, he can alleviate that personal turmoil through his music like he does in this album, and to the benefit of those Turnpike Troubadours fans who can’t get enough from this band and want to venture into the side projects.

We’ll have to see if a Vol. 2 ever materializes. Kyle Nix seems to be open the possibility of reconciliation or something brighter for the future in the album’s final song, “Summer Plains.” But for now Nix has doubled down on being much more than the “Turnpike Troubadours fiddle player.” With quality musicianship, inspired songs, a passionate drive, and a pretty darn cool band behind him, Nix has expanded his palette and capabilities as a musician to the benefit of the public beyond Turnpike Troubadours fandom.

1 3/4 Gus Up (8/10)

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