Album Review – Matt Woods’ “With Love From Brushy Mountain”

While everyone was (rightly) heaping praise and celebrating Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, another great country album came out that same week. And that album was Matt Woods’ With Love From Brushy Mountain. Thanks again to Trigger from Saving Country Music for pointing out another great country music artist to me. I had never heard of Woods before and I regretted that once I gave a listen to his latest album. If you love Simpson, you’re going to love Matt Woods too.

After you take a listen to With Love From Brushy Mountain (the name comes from an old prison), the song that will immediately stand out amongst the rest is “Deadman’s Blues.” This song was released as a single last year, but it was completely new to me. “Deadman’s Blue” is one of the best country songs I’ve heard in recent years. The song is about loneliness, failed relationships and being your own prisoner, which is the overall theme of the album. Woods shows such great, raw emotion in this song. He does this by slowly raising his voice throughout the song. In the beginning he’s somber and reflective and then it builds into frustrating realization. Lyrically it’s perfect. The best line to me is when he says he’s “a first place loser and a last place friend,” which perfectly describes the man’s pain in the song. If you don’t feel like listening to the whole album, at least listen to this song.

One thing to point out about Woods you will probably notice is that he isn’t a great singer. He’s good, but not great. It’s harder for him to hit some of the higher notes as you will notice in some songs. But he will make up for it by once again showing good emotion in his voice. This is evident in the song, “Tiny Anchors.” It’s a song about a man’s “tiny anchors” slowly bringing his woman’s heart down and eventually leads to her leaving him. Towards the end of the song Woods pleads, “darling hang on with me”  over and over, conveying the sense of desperation and frustration the man is experiencing. Another song Woods shows great emotion is in “With Love From Brushy Mountain.” This is a violent heartbreak song about a man singing about he’s stuck up on a mountain (Brushy Mountain, a prison) because of his ex-wife. He explains in the song how he got there when these lines are uttered: “I found them in each other’s arms last night of their lives. Bought a ticket to this mountain and this mountain’s where I’ll die.”  He killed them both after finding his woman was cheating on him, so now he’ll rot in prison for the rest of his life. Pretty dark stuff.

The songs “Ain’t No Living” and “West Texas Wind” that start off the album are songs about Woods’ life, his roots and what he’s all about. I thought that was a great way to start the album because it allows you to sort of get to know the artist, which is helpful for people like me who didn’t know Woods. I thought the instrumentation used in “West Texas Wind” was great. “Snack Bar Mary and the Ten Pin Priest” is an honest song about small town life. There are so many songs that praise how great small town living is and how’s it’s a piece of paradise. This is just plain over exaggeration. Yes, small town living can be enjoyable. But there’s a lot of times where it feels like a pain in the ass (I know this from experience). So I’m glad Woods gave a real view of small towns.

“Drinking to Forget” and “Lucero Song” are two great songs to listen to while you’re drinking. Another drinking song is “Lying On the Floor.” This is a song about a man who gets drunk frequently at a bar and a woman is always there to care for him. Despite there being three songs about drinking on the album, Woods manages to make each feel fresh and unique. They could have easily felt repetitive and tiresome, but each has a different feel.

“Liberty Bell” is the most underrated song on the album. It deals with drinking, living in a small town that’s “gone straight to hell” and having a hopeful outlook that one day we’ll all “ring that liberty bell.” Despite the dark picture that is painted in listener’s minds, the overall mood is positive in the face of down times. Once again Woods shows great emotion in this song. The instrumentation is well done too and is right on cue throughout the song’s vast array of emotions that are displayed.

“Real Hard Times” is a ‘shit-kicking’ country song about going through hard times in life. The song starts off with the line, “Jesus wants to see you in a Buick.” I don’t know why, but I chuckle every time I hear that line. Maybe I’m picturing Jesus as a car salesman when I hear it? Anyway this song has a real up beat tempo and will make you want to move your feet as you listen along with it. The album ends with the bonus track “80 Miles an Hour.” It seems to relate to Woods’ experience of the fast-paced life on the road playing in all kinds of different cities across the country. Despite all of the places and people he sees, his “favorite thing is looking in her eyes.” A good song about how the little things in life are more important than all of the outside stuff happening around you.

With Love From Brushy Mountain is one of the best country albums of the year and I can’t recommend it to you more. While some may feel Woods’ voices hurts some of the songs, I feel he makes up for it with great effort and emotion. The songwriting and instrumentation are fantastic throughout the whole album. This album deserves more praise than it’s getting.

While I love the album, I feel like this is just a coming out moment for Woods. I feel like this wasn’t even his best work and that even better albums are to follow this one. With Love From Brushy Mountain will be a contender for Country Perspective’s Best Album of 2014 and Woods is someone who should be on every real country music fan’s radar.

Grade: 9/10

To buy this album, click here.