Album Review- Zachariah Malachi’s “Local Bar Opry Star”

photo: Jared Manzo

It’s been a long time coming but it’s finally here: the first official album from throwback country singer and songwriter Zachariah Malachi, and the final album ever worked on and produced by iconic guitarist Jimmy Capps, a.k.a. The Man in Back. Full of original classic country songs that sound like they’re recorded 60 years too late (in the best of ways), it is a breath of fresh air compared to many of today’s modern country monstrosities, and a worthy introduction to an artist we hope to hear much more from in years to come.

Originally from the outskirts of Detroit, but raised by East Tennessee transplants, Zachariah Malachi fell in love with the lonesome moan of Hank Williams at an early age and never looked back. Picking rhythm guitar and singing since adolescence, he was performing in local watering holes before he was old enough to drink. Eventually he fronted a country punk band called Hook N Krooks, and started making regular pilgrimages to Nashville before eventually moving there full time.

In Music City, Zachariah fell in with the right crowd, which in his case, was the legendary musicians of country music many years his senior. He started living with the family of Jim Ed Brown, and when the owner of of Springer Mountain Farms Chicken and Grand Ole Opry sponsor Gus Arrendale caught a whiff of Malachi’s singing, he introduced him to Opry house band member Jimmy Capps, who agreed to produce an album for the promising young singer.

Along with instilling Local Bar Opry Star with that authentic classic country sound, Zachariah Malachi and Jimmy Capps were able to pull together some top shelf musicians for the project, including folks like Chris Scruggs on steel guitar, Charlie McCoy on harmonica, and fiddle player Andy Leftwich just to name a few. Unfortunately, Jimmy Capps passed away during the recording in June of 2020, which might be one of the reasons this album has been such a long time coming. But his touch remains on this record.

Local Bar Opry Star in many respects is a tribute album to the greats of country music, just rendered in original songs. “The Drinkin’ Song” was written to be a tribute to George Jones specifically, and “Wrecked” could be considered one too with the way Malachi picks up on some of the Jones inflections in his singing. “Bedroom 201” reminds you of many of those softcore hits by Conway Twitty.

Despite the old school traditional sound, the subject matter of Zachariah’s songs very much center around heavy drinking, heavier partying, and severe heartache. Just a minor shade of a darker element from the punk side of Malachi’s influences makes this classic country music a bit more interesting. Like Hank Williams III once said, “The older you sound, the more punk you’re being.” Zachariah most certainly embraces that with some of his songwriting.

This is perhaps best evidenced in the final song on the album, “Final Stages of Hank,” where Zachariah’s devotion and deep study into the life of Hank Williams comes full circle. Mid December might be a strange time to release an album, but it’s the perfect moment to present this song to the world as we near the 70th Anniversary of Hank’s departure on New Year’s Day in the back of a Cadillac. The writing of Zachariah Malachi citing those tragic events really speaks to the depths of depression he’s trying to evoke.

Zachariah has performed with The Cowpokes, The Tennessee Walkers, The Nashville Counts, and others. He’s currently appearing as fiddle player Charlie Justice of The Jones Boys in the limited Showtime series George & Tammy. He’s an important member of Nashville’s authentic throwback country music community. Some may find the music and writing of Local Bar Opry Star a little too “hokey” for their tastes, which comes with the territory. But Zachariah Malachi also brings strong writing, a strong voice, and just a touch of darkness to make his approach to classic country unique.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)

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