Enough with all the hipsters in east Nashville trying to emulate bygone legends, or straining to hear a fiddle or steel guitar in the mix of an Americana album so you can justify it as country. Nothing against those cats, but sometimes you just have to set all of that stuff aside and find a bona fide veteran of country music that never swayed from that timeless, classic sound, never played a role or chased a trend, and delivers country songs with no affectations or irony. That’s where the music of Scott Southworth comes into play.
A singer and songwriter originally from the Pacific Northwest who pre-COVID could be found holding down a bar stool and making a microphone smell like brown liquor in places like Douglas Corner and the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, he’s a sure bet when you’re in the mood for something country, not just country-ish.
Not taking himself too seriously, or getting swept up in notions that country superstardom is just the next song away, Scott Southworth can focus on penning quality country songs, singing them well, and putting time-tested sounds and themes to good use with the help of guitar player Brent Mason and a bunch of other top notch Nashville players. This is what Southworth does on his latest album These Old Bones.
Since this is country music, you must sing about heartbreak, and Southworth does this well in songs like “Steel Guitars & Broken Hearts” and “Where I’ll Be.” He also sings about being damaged to the point where there’s “Less To Break” or how you can’t “Break A Honky Tonk Heart.”
But where Scott Southworth really shines is when he sings a love song. “A Good Woman’s Love” is going along fine, but towards the end, Southworth shows off both his skill for not just writing a good song, but composing one, and singing it with a voice that is easy to underrate.
Scott Southworth is also not afraid to laugh at himself a little bit and have some fun. “Agree To Disagree” is one of those duets of the attitudinal variety recorded with Jill Kinsey, and the title track makes light of being a little long in the tooth. “These Old Bones” might catch Scott stretching a bit outside of his comfort zone when he tries to belt out the final lines. But “Critters”—as corny as it is—is an incredibly fun and quick witted track. It’s not just Southworth’s skill with country music that makes him so good. It’s his enthusiasm for it.
There’s nothing fancy here, and nobody’s trying to reinvent the wheel. But isn’t that what’s beautiful about country music, how it’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t need constant reinvention? There will always be broken hearts, lovers in love, wild and rural landscapes to soliloquize, and guys like Scott Southworth skilled to sing about it in a way that will never be out of style.
He ends with the song “All I’ve Done” about how if he croaks tomorrow, he’s accomplished everything he’s wanted. And when you add These Old Bones to the mix, that’s quite a bit for country music. As was said here about his last album, “If you don’t like Scott Southworth, you don’t like Country Music.” And the same holds true for These Old Bones.
1 3/4 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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