Congratulations, you have just stumbled upon your next favorite country band, and your next favorite country album. From Houston, TX, The Broken Spokes are a beloved local and regional traditional country outfit with a name synonymous with country due to the famous honky tonk in Austin. But having focused solely on live shows henceforth as opposed to aspiring for some sort of national attention, The Broken Spokes are also the best band you’ve never heard of. They’re looking to change that with their debut album Where I Went Wrong.
This thing is so damn good. If you needed to select a country music album to shoot into outer space to represent country music to other civilizations, or bury in a vault so when humans blow themselves to smithereens there’s something to repopulate country music with, Where I Went Wrong would not be a bad candidate. It’s that virtuous, that country, and truly flawless in its execution where there’s not one sour note, one bad turn of phrase, one weak song, or flat solo. Everything here is *chef kiss* excellent cover to cover.
Meanwhile, if you need an audio representation of the textbook definition of what country music actually is in its purest form, Where I Went Wrong would totally work. It’s a classic and traditional country album, but so dripping with present-day appeal from the passion brought to the music and the sincerity with which it’s delivered, it doesn’t feel dated at all. This album is beaming with enjoyment.
Where I Went Wrong is also one of those albums that when you first hear it, you’re constantly flipping through the liner notes for the songwriters because you can’t believe some of these songs weren’t country standards written 50 or 60 years ago. There are a few obvious cover songs on the album, like “Driving Nails In My Coffin” made famous by Ernest Tubb, and “Honky Tonk Song” by Mel Tillis. But the original songs from The Broken Spokes slide right in line with tunes that have withstood the test of time, and are what make this album worth seeking out.
Frontman and singer Brent McLennan, and guitarist Josh Artall co-write arguably the album’s best tracks, including the first two songs “Where I Went Wrong” and “All I Hear You Say.” Simply from that opening salvo, you’re completely hooked on what The Broken Spokes are slinging here. The pair also contribute the great tracks “River of Blues” and “Waiting So Patiently” to the record. Another standout of the record is “Someday, Not Today” written by Matt Hillyer formerly of Eleven Hundred Spring and Larry Hooper. Cover, original, or co-write, each song on this album is a testament to country music, buying into the beauty of country music’s simplicity.
The instrumentation on this album is also excellent, and in bursts, absolutely incredible. The steel guitar from Kevin Skrla who also deserves great credit for producing the album is all perfectly relevant to the time period each song looks to evoke, while also overachieving in both the technical proficiency and emotional impact. The same goes for the fiddle from Ellen Story, and the lead guitar licks from Josh Artall. And with bass player Lawrence Cevallos and drummer Gus Alvarado, you can tell this is a band that has put in their 1,000 hours plus in Austin and Houston honky tonks, and was well-seasoned before they ever chose to step into the studio.
There is nothing especially special or unique with The Broken Spokes. They’re most certainly not being innovative, or even really that original within the country space. The magic here is how they have embraced the true roots of country music, and interpreted them in the modern context with such love and passion that the music feels more palpable and alive than with other traditional country bands, while illustrating the beauty of country music to the audience in a way that feels vital. Singer Brent McLennan sounds like a ghost from country music’s past, not a modern performer.
There were a lot of country albums released in July 15th, 2022. I mean a lot. But this is the one that when it comes to just sheer listening pleasure with the risk of getting stuck in your listening rotation for a long time to come, The Broken Spokes and Where I Went Wrong come out on top.
Two Guns Up (9/10)
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