If you had told me a year ago that country would be the predominantly played genre when the family is together, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here we are on Day 25 of the #mayvinylchallenge, and I’m ready to talk about a country album. A recent country album. Today’s theme is around past or future live shows you wish you could see. For this one I’m going with the album that was played in my house more than any other in 2020…and 2021. It’s my wife’s favorite thing, the permanent road trip singalong album, and ever since hearing it I’ve been equally obsessed. So get your cigarettes and cocaine and let’s jump into the new outlaw country of Paul Cauthen and Room 41.
Cauthen summons a righteous fire and brimstone style of country that certainly recalls Johnny Cash in his vocal delivery, but where Cauthen and Room 41 in particular shine is the composition and song arrangements. This is an album completely unafraid to explore avenues of soul, funk, rock, and even prog in moments that are just as fresh and captivating the 100th hearing them as they are the first time. Opener “Holy Ghost Fire” has a skeletal, haunting production that to my ears recalls the best of what the RZA could do with the Wu-Tang, but the song itself swings with a rambler’s grace. “Prayed for Rain” is a delicate acoustic number that is my wife’s favorite song, which automatically makes it mine. Except that when she’s not looking my favorite is the closing track “Lay Me Down” which has the power to move me to tears when I listen to it.
Every. Single. Time.
Beyond that there are rocking fun tunes like the insane cadences inside “Cocaine Country Dancing” with its hip-shaking wink and boogie groove, the disco funk of “Freak,” and the bourbon soaked heartache of “Can’t Be Alone.” “Give ‘Em Peace” lyrically recalls the opening number and helps to keep such an eclectic album cohesive.
Sometimes you just discover something that resonates so deeply with you, you don’t question it, even if it goes against your preconceived notions of what you like or don’t like. Maybe especially if it’s something you previously didn’t like. Paul Cauthen and Room 41 isn’t exactly what got me into country, but it’s definitely what got me to start to explore the nooks and crannies of the genre more to find a lot of gems.