Brent Cobb - Southern Star
Every once in a while a record comes along that does nothing but make you smile and feel warm all over - Brent Cobb's "Southern Star" is such an album. Clocking in at a glorious 10 tracks, that leave you wishing for more rather than the recent trend of adding more tracks than anyone could possibly want to listen to - there are no fillers to be found here.
The album is billed as "a love-letter to Brent’s southern roots" and that comes across in every track on this record that sees Brent take the production chair for the first time.
"Southern Star" opens to its title track which really sets the scene, there is a laid back groove provided by the keyboards, the rest of the band just follow the mood. Brent's vocals match their surroundings with a gentle smoothness and ease,
Lyrically as well that feeling of love comes across
"Under the Southern star I heal all of my scars
As cicadas sing, ain't it the sweetest dream
Winding kudzu vines untangle up my mind
How beloved is my home sweet home"
That feeling of gaining strength from knowing there is always a place that you can call home is perfectly typified in the chorus.
"I've been a drifter down most highways
I've been lost at sea
There's one thing this world could never take from me
No matter how far I go
No matter how deep the dark
I know I can always count on the Southern star"
"It's a Start" invites us into Brent's world - and we get to spend a great Spring afternoon off the "Slaughter Creek Dirt Road". The name of the place, a perfect counterpoint to the activities going on where the Crawfish are ready to bite
"And it feels so good being here with you
Just burnin' firewood
Tellin' jokes we learned from old folks
Sippin' cokes with barbecue"
In one of the albums recurring themes, it's a time for looking back, celebrating past times, though maybe with a hint of sadness that those days are in the past.
"Reminiscing missin' old times
Wishin' we still called them new"
It opens with just Brent's acoustic guitar and to all intents and purposes, we could be sitting out their listening to him play it Other instruments do join however they are subtly added to great effect and so fail to spoil the illusion
The third track introduces a funky Southern country sound that we will meet at times through the record - it once again finds Brent totally at home in his surroundings
"Here come another morning sun
Ain't got a whole lot but I'm gettin' it done"
Each time there is a change of pace it only proves what a master of his art Brent is. the glorious ballad "Patina" being a case in point - excellent use of the word patina, more often to be heard mentioned in the world of antiques.
"We've been together so long, we put patina on love"
It's a simply sumptuous ballad, with Brent musing on the passing of time and concluding that "We got right now"
Brent has a certain timbre that exudes a certain calmness and a lyrical flair that paints a vivid perfect picture.
"I got one hand on the wheel and one on your thigh
You got a way that makes my heart feel like it's flying
The window's rolled down and I hear the wind whippin' by
Country playlist so sad, by the end, the stereo should be crying"
The styles keep on coming "O’nt Know When" is a sort of good time spiritual funk party while "Kick The Can" is another laid back ballad once again finding Brent in a reflective mood - it comes with a harmonica sound to die for
"I was young just a kid
Lived true stories never fibbed
Riverbank Friday night
God almighty hold me tight
Skip the law can't be found
Ride around all over town
Hit the dirt kick the can
Mess around and start up a band"
It is not all periods of reflection the up beat funky "Devil Ain't Done" reminds us that there is plenty of life in him yet to be lived.
"I got some drinkin' smokin' cheatin' left to do
I've been a runnin' with the wrong crowd
Now i'm neck deep in the blues
I reckon I'll just live forever
If only the good die young
Heaven ain't ready and the devil ain't done"
There is a glorious celebration of the musical contribution of Georgia both past and present in "When Country Came Back To Town" name checking the many artists that the state has produced - and crediting them with getting things musically back on track - the one name he can't shout out, being his own!
"Some say it never left some say that it got saved
Some say like everything it changes over time
Well all I know for certain is I’m glad I was around
When country came back to town"
"Southern Star" is an album that simply keeps on giving, each time you think you have identified your favourite track along comes another to shake your opinion. After the tribulation of the previous track "Miss Ater" is a slow tender ballad - it finds Brent lyrically hitting ever greater highs, painting the landscape in words like an artist.
"And the rain in Sylvester falls harder than anywhere
Like the devil's got his fist on your house
And the dirt road and tobacco fields have looked the same for all these years
Like God forgot to finish this town"
Yet it is the little vignettes of the folk in this town that are his masterpieces, conjured up with just a few lines
"Floyd painted from the morning 'til night
Taking his breaks for cold beer
He was known as a great white knight
Sittin' in his rockin' chair"
The album closes with "Shade Tree", where we join Brent for one last journey - this time fishing. The production is again spot on - we could just be with Brent watching the fish bite, there another gloriously captured harmonica and the most delicate of percussion but mostly it is Brent and his guitar.
"Under the shade tree
Laid back with a cane pole
If they ain't bitin'
Still soothes my country soul
And that's where you'll find me
Right at home"
"Southern Star" deserves to be all over the end of year lists of 2023's best album, It gives you a true feeling of what is is to be in and come from Georgia, it has the rare quality of being able to soothe the soul and you emerge from listening to it just that little bit more spiritually enriched than when you started - you can't ask for much more than that.