Apr 19, 2017

Album Review: Charlie Worsham - Beginning of Things

Charlie Worsham – Beginning of Things

by Jonny Brick

Hi, my name is Jonny and I love country music. Nice to be here. I think it best that I start my first piece on Farce The Music by acknowledging my forebears.

Here is what FTM thought of Rubberband, Charlie’s debut from way back in 2013, when number one songs included the gruesome twosome "Cruise" and "That’s My Kind of Night" (I am contractually obliged to call both those songs rubbish):

Rubberband is mainstream country music as it probably should be in 2013. It's not rock masquerading as country, or country wishing it were pop, or (thank God) hick-hop.

‘Charlie's music is organic, honest and warm…It's accessible but not pandering. It's catchy but not built solely around hooks. It goes down easy, but requires repeated listens to get a full appreciation.’

If that’s your bag, or if you enjoyed Rubberband like I did – I was briefly addicted to "Want You Too" – then Beginning of Things is the album for you.

Here in the UK (I’m writing from London), we have adopted Charlie because you in the US didn’t want him, like a sort of Bush (the band) in reverse. (Gavin Rossdale is our version of Blake Shelton here, so go fig.)

As a nice gift to his fans over here in the UK, Charlie accidentally left copies of Beginning of Things in the hands of his fans at his gig in November 2016. When he returned in March 2017, playing Country2Country (C2C) in London and at small venues across the country, some fans knew every word to songs that had not yet been released.

To promote the album, Charlie released a wave of five songs (John Mayer-style) in January 2017, which all appear on the LP. "Southern by the Grace of God" is co-written with Luke Dick and the modern-day Tom T Hall, Shane McAnally. The harmonies in the chorus are awesome, as is the way Charlie tags the end of the chorus with a reference to the bluegrass style of singing like a hillbilly. It’s authentic and fun, and proves Charlie knows his heritage.

Daniel Tashian and Abe Stoklasa wrote "Call You Up," which has hints of the former’s work with the band formerly known as The Bees, now called The Silver Seas. The latter has played keyboards on Lady A’s tours, and wrote with Charles Kelley, who I am sure would leave Lady A to pursue his more interesting solo career…if only his mortgage would pay itself.

Charlie has told the story of headlining a gig above Sam Hunt and Kip Moore; the lineup was booked well before Hunty became a big star. Whereas Sam only played a few songs, the crowd grew restless when Charlie was up there trying to do his job. He should have been rubbing his sexy body like Shmuel, but must have been too busy playing chords and riffs on his guitar.

Charlie suffered a crisis of confidence after the tour, and is still too polite to blame old Hunty for this. I wonder if Sam’s expected second album will be musically better than Charlie’s, and about the Pope’s religious preference. I know whose album Nashville is betting their horses on selling a million copies. And it ain’t Chuck’s.

All this despite the fact that Vince Gill is his guiding light, that Marty Stuart played on Rubberband and that, in "Could It Be," Charlie has released one of the finest love songs in country music this decade.

(It’s better than "Need You Now," which I think is also an obvious easy target on this site; Lady A’s album will come close, in its best moments, to Beginning of Things, but will probably be weighed down by AOR. I am willing to be proven wrong.)

Consistency between Charlie’s two albums is maintained with having Ryan Tyndell on board once again. He wrote nine of the eleven tracks on the debut, and writes five here, including "Please People Please" (‘you can’t please people, please people, please’), a live favourite which really needs some airplay on country radio. Bobby Bones is a huge fan, and the Bobbycast with Charlie is a really brilliant hour of conversation.

Charlie uses his talents as a picker – he went to Berklee College of Music thanks to his brilliant pickin’ – to good effect as and when he needs to, sounding like Daryl Hall on the track’s solo passage. Hunter Hayes brought him onto the stage of the Greenwich Arena at C2C, so there is mutual respect from another act who deserved more appreciation.

Charlie can do throwaway pop songs (I’ll say it) like Paul McCartney or (I’ll say it) like Brad Paisley. There are a couple of them on Beginning of Things: "Take Me Drunk" has the great line, ‘What’s a drink got to do to get a guy in this bar?’ which is a song title on its own!

"Lawn Chair Don’t Care," with which he delighted Country2Country fans back in 2016, sounds like the theme tune to the Nickelodeon show Doug: ‘Boo-ba boo boo, boo-ba boo boo!’ Charlie sings. The chorus is a ‘sitting in a chair drinking a beer’, but with strong melodic heft.

It’s a co-write with Tyndell and Brent Cobb, and that trio also wrote "Only Way to Fly," a brilliant piece of music with a soaring chorus that demands to be sung at CMA Fest. Though, as I am contractually told to write, it’ll be drowned out by those darned FGL/Kane Brown fans, right?!

(Am I doing the right thing here by hating on T-Hub, The Other One and Kane Brown?)

Brent Cobb co-wrote "Old Time’s Sake" with Charlie and Jeremy Spillman, who also wrote "How I Learned to Pray," one of the softer songs on Rubberband. "Old Time’s Sake" is the equivalent song on this album, a magnificent ballad in 12/8 time. I love the line in verse one:
‘I love this song too. Can I dance with you? Let’s try something new, for old time’s sake.’ A killer.

The title track is a story in a song (duh, it’s country). Co-written by Stoklasa (who wrote "The Driver" with Charles Kelley), it’s a love story set to a lovely beat. The pace quickens with "Birthday Suit," whose chorus of ‘TAKE IT OFF, TAKE IT OFF!!’ must bring back awful memories of that Sam Hunt tour for Charlie. The song actually recalls the music of Beck, which isn’t bad musical company to be in.

Ben Hayslip, who is partly responsible for bro-country (he co-wrote "It Goes Like This," "Mind Reader," and "Honey Bee," as well as "Touchdown Jesus"), helped Charlie write "I-55," which sounds like its title, ‘a familiar stretch of interstate’. Fans of American rock music (which, from what I know, seems to be making a big impact on country sounds) will dig it, as there’s a lot of space between the notes on Charlie’s guitar part.

I am not surprised if Luke Bryan options this for his next record, as he’d kill for it and also deliver a great vocal. (I like Luke, get over it.)

"I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere" shares a poppy sound with the likes of John Mayer – again, a guitarist-songwriter unafraid to go his own way, industry be damned – and is a big live favourite. It also stands as a sort of missing statement. Meanwhile, Charlie calls "Cut Your Groove" his ‘theme song’, and it’s the best thing he’s done and may well ever do.

Farce The Music readers will love how the three-chord marvel uses the physical object of the record to stand as a metonym for one’s life: ‘You got a melody, make ’em hear it!’ is a great affirmation from a guy who admitted to seeing a therapist to get his career back on track. "Cut Your Groove" is such a brilliant song that on any other act’s album it would relegate the rest to filler. Here it is just the best of a starry bunch.

It makes me wonder who else Britain can adopt because America are too stupid to make stars of proper stars like Charlie Worsham. We’ll make Charlie a huge star here of Sam Hunt proportions.

I know he won’t sell a million copies like Lady A, Sam Hunt or Luke will, but even if Charlie sells half a million (and gets people streaming too), at least that’ll ensure he can make another album and force these top acts to raise their game.

Just don’t make us wait four more years, Charlie!

Beginning of Things is out this Friday and will be available on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Please welcome Jonny Brick, who runs this fine site, to Farce the Music as our newest contributor. His tastes skew toward the mainstream it seems, but more often the good stuff than not, so we're looking forward to his perspective. He's also from across the pond, so that'll add some different spice to our formerly all American presentation. -Trailer

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