With old school country music being such a hot commodity these days, an industry of “cool” has entrenched itself in the scene … or depending on your perspective, perhaps this coolness has corrupted it. Suave 20 and 30-somethings are out there packing theaters and sometimes arenas singing what passes for classic country songs. East Nashville is full of kids with cocaine mustaches, blue blocker shades, and butterfly collars aping Jerry Reed. It’s cool to see so much vitality in the music, even if some of the hipster vibes thrown off don’t feel cool all the time.
As for Scott Southworth, he knows he’s part of the uncool crowd. He’s a middle-aged traditional country singer and songwriter who can’t begin to keep up with the Tyler Childers and Charley Crocketts of the country music world. But ironically, that is what makes Scott Southworth cool in his own way. He’s genuine: to himself, to his songs, and to country music. In an era when interloping, affectations, and cosplay are all the rage, he’s the real deal.
This is what Scott Southworth introduces you to in the talking verses of the title track of his new album Comin’ Round to Honky Tonk Again. Southworth knows his little place in the country music world. And instead of being full of spite or envy, or trying to be anything but himself, he embraces it. He’s also willing to laugh a little bit, and to sing a silly cornpone song or two. Southworth makes sure to not take himself too seriously, though he takes the business of writing and singing country music as serious as a life’s purpose.
With a great singing voice to back it up, Scott Southworth rattles off a dozen songs on this new album that in previous eras in country music would constitute radio hits. Though he writes a lot of his own stuff like the great country shuffle “Here Comes The Night” or the laid back “Just Fishing,” he also co-writes with a few cool names, and cuts some songs on the album that are perfect specimens of the “three chords and the truth” mantra like “Over Getting Over You Again” co-written with Jan Buckingham and “Everything I Never Knew” with Bill Whyte.
And of course because it’s Scott Southworth, you know the music itself is going to be country, and full of fiddle and steel guitar. Just like Scott Southworth, Comin’ Round to Honky Tonk Again is country through and through. Though he’s originally from the Pacific Northwest, one thing we’ve learned about true country music over the years is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. If you have the love of country music in your heart, you can perform country music with authenticity, as long as you’re authentic to yourself.
Southworth helps to underscore this with the song “Country No Matter What Country” where he teams with seven different independent country artists from seven different countries to sing a classic country song. This includes Glen Mitchell, Kevin Greaves, Andrea Benz, Johnny Brady, Siverty Bjordal, and “Mr. Jay” Desoteux. Just like many of the genuine article country guys from the United States, Scott Southworth has garnered himself an international following over the years from being an actual version of a country music artist as opposed to a put-on one.
This new album also has a cool collaboration with Dallas Moore called “Granny Used To Honky Tonk,” a song called “Woman On My New Tattoo” that reminds you of the best of Jimmy Buffett (RIP), and some funny stuff that always comes with a Scott Southworth album like “Ridin’ Sparky Tonight” co-written with Jerry Salley.
So often in the effort to save country music, we get swept up in focusing on the surging young country stars and the spectacular things they’re accomplishing. All that stuff is cool, but it’s guys like Scott Southworth that may not be “cool” in the conventional sense, but are doing country music the was it’s supposed to be done, and the way it’s always been done. When the trends pass and the popularity dies down, he’ll still be here honky tonkin’, because that’s what Scott Southworth does.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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This story has been updated.