|Photo by Kayla Rayborn|
Today we have a premiere for you. The song is “CCC” from Texas songwriter Zach Aaron, whose forthcoming album Fill Dirt Wanted promises a healthy slice of folk-country with plenty of heart, history, and weirdness thrown in for good measure. “CCC” refers to the Civilian Conservation Corps, a voluntary public work relief effort that operated from 1933 to 1942 for unemployed, unmarried men. It provided 3 meals a day and $30 a month for people going through the hard times of the depression¹, and this song presents that program from the viewpoint of an eager and thankful worker. It’s a simple and tuneful song that will find you singing along to a hard luck narrative that seems a world away, but maybe really isn’t. RIYL: Woodie Guthrie, Adam Carroll, Colter Wall, Townes Van Zandt.
Zach’s thoughts on the song:
I was sitting around the house drinking and thinking about stuff one day when I came across a PBS documentary about the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). I had recently taken a deep dive into Woody Guthrie and Depression-era songwriters at the time, so I was really intrigued by this. There is a part in the documentary where they interviewed men who served in the CCC and I remember one man in particular mentioning that his time in the CCC was the first time he had ever had two pairs of shoes. I loved the contentment he had with three meals a day and two pairs of shoes and it made me want to write a song about the CCC. We have so much nowadays and we are, for the most part, very ungrateful. While on a solo acoustic tour in the northeast I came across a few sites that were actually built by the CCC and made it a point to find a few more (which I'll do whenever touring is a thing again).
The CCC was a very controversial program when it first came about. I didn't want to bring to light the politics of the whole thing as much as the human element and the gratitude these men had for receiving so little in a time of great strife.
More information about Zach and Fill Dirt Wanted under the video.
Zach Aaron -- Fill Dirt Wanted (May 15)
There’s a whole lotta lonesome in the world. Trying to make sense of it all, including his own, Texas troubadour Zach Aaron travels through lifetimes of hurt on his new album. Fill Dirt Wanted weathers every kind of storm - from a dear friend’s final moments to working one’s hands to the bone. Spanning 12 songs - all tracked live in a room, straight to tape - the record also contains tales about paranormal activity, the Civilian Conservation Corp, and a good for nothin’ local train system - all fitting hallmarks of a traditional Texas country/folk troubadour.
“Running from the preacher / Running from my sins / Running from my family / I’m running from my fears / Running from anything that gets too near,” he agonizes over the hole swelling in his chest. “Got no one to blame / I dug it on my own.” Such anguish is the bedrock of the record, often writhing around or drowning in it completely, and the title cut serves as an appropriate kick starter.
“Animal of Burden” pounds and yanks the listener out of their seat. “Work, work, work / That’s my game / I’m comin’ up short at the end of the day,” he barks. “I’m an animal of burden / I know my place / Fueling all the fires in a rich man’s race / Breaking my back with a smile on my face.”
Calling to such influences as Woody Guthrie and Guy Clark, Aaron walks a delicate tightrope - doing what needs to be done but feeling suffocated while doing it. “I was feeling like I was working my ass off and not really getting anywhere,” he says. “I came across the term ‘animal of burden’ and got to thinking about how most people live their whole life as just an animal of burden - working their life away. I was wondering, ‘What for? Is it all worth it?’”
With his third studio album, recorded at Breathing Rhythm in Norman, Oklahoma, with producer Giovanni Carnuccio and engineer Steve Boaz, Aaron tears through a rush of emotions. Moments like “Potato Salad,” “Aztec Cafe,” and “Southeast Texas Trinity River Bottom Blues” flex the full extent of his abilities. He combs very honest encounters and observations to dissect humanity’s darkest pains and tragedies, as well as our brightest joys. It’s a true cross section of what it means to be alive, to be broken, and to find healing in the wreckage.
Born in El Paso, Texas on an army base, Aaron shuffled off with his mother to Tombstone, Arizona to live with his grandparents following a divorce. The two lived there until Aaron was 12 years old, and soon, they relocated to East Texas. It wasn’t until after high school that he began to explore music as a creative outlet. He took up a local construction job, and one of his co-workers first taught him basic chords.
Aaron was hooked. “I never sang in my life before or even wrote songs,” he says. Six months later, he entered the Air Force in which he worked for the next four and a half years. He continued to hone his craft, of course, and when he returned, he pursued music more seriously.
In the coming years, he worked with a fence company for a while, playing shows and writing when he could, and later on an oil field. He then rough necked in northern Louisiana on an oil rig for the Patterson Oil Company. His work took him all over the south and as far as Corpus Christi, Texas.
The music eventually pulled him back, and he decided to “go all in,” he says. “I always had little jobs here and there to keep bills paid.” During his many work endeavors, Aaron released two albums, 2014’s Find My Soul and 2016’s Murder of Crows - both recorded at The Zone in Dripping Springs, Texas.
In addition to his music, Aaron does custom leather work. His items include belts, guitar straps, and holsters. His younger brother first started in the business, eventually piquing Aaron’s interest, so when an ex-girlfriend’s mother was getting rid of some tools, he took to the craft himself.
Now living in Tarkington, outside of Cleveland and 45 minutes north of Houston, Zach Aaron eyes the most emotional and compelling record of his career. Fill Dirt Wanted boasts rootsy compositions and a roster of musicians, including Kevin Haystack Foster (guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, harmony vocals) and Dave Leech (upright bass, piano).
Fill Dirt Wanted carries with it a timely air, too. Aaron’s lyrics implicate great compassion and empathy, but he never hops upon a soap box. It just is.
Fill Dirt Wanted can be pre-ordered through Zach's site and I imagine it will be available for purchase in all the usual locations on release date (May 15).