William Clark Green is one of Texas’ fastest rising stars. His 2013 album, Rose Queen, yielded three top-ten singles for Green on the Texas country charts. Among those top-tens were two chart toppers, including the award-winning “She Likes the Beatles.” The album prior to Rose Queen, 2010’s Misunderstood, sparked the fire for Green. And after Rose Queen’s success, people began calling William Clark Green the next big thing in Texas Country. The 28-year-old singer-songwriter doesn’t quite feel the same way, but the hype surrounding him doesn’t crack his focus. Green reunites with producer Rachel Loy and brings in a few extra guitar players to the recording session for his fourth studio album, Ringling Road. And the result of this fire power is an album that could add more fuel to William Clark Green’s blaze across the Lone Star State and beyond.
Ringling Road starts off with the autobiographical “Next Big Thing.” Here, Green address the hype head on, addressing his hardships of life on the road and still having no money, despite all this critical hype. “The next big thing, what’s that mean? Oh it’s hard to pay your dues when there ain’t no money in the bank. It’s a shame. I got to make to the show but there ain’t no gas in the tank.” There’s a heavy rock production to song, but it’s not as if Green is angry about the hype of his career. With that said though, that’s the type of songwriting you get from William Clark Green: brutal honesty in every situation. “Sticks and Stones” deals with small town gossip. The townsfolk spread rumors about Green and his life on the road, but their words don’t bother him because they’re “nothing but sticks and stones.” The upbeat, roots rocking production drive the song to quick end.
“Creek Don’t Rise” is the most country offering on the whole album. The songwriting here is sharp. The relationship has hit some rough patches, but they’re determined to get through it tonight, if the Lord wills it and the flood of a rising creek doesn’t interfere. The fiddle up front on the melody is a great touch on this two-stepping country jam. Up next is the polarizing title track. “Ringling Road” describes the dysfunctional circus in town: cocaine-addicted trapeze artists, the drunk clown, and the love triangle between the snake charmer, human cannon ball and tattooed man. William Clark Green really does describe a freak show in the truest sense. “Ringling Road” sits as an outlier track in an album of heartbreak tunes, small town life, and life on the road; and you’ll either love or hate this rocking, entertaining freak show song.
“Final This Time” hits you like a brick. In this heartbreaker, Green sings with the tune’s co-writer, Dani Flowers, about a relationship that’s hopefully done for good. The guitar is heavy and moody, a harmonica chimes in, and you can hear the agony in both of their voices as they plead for the end to stick. Flowers’ addition for the female role in the song is a great touch. The song moves slowly, but the development pays off as the pleas turn desperate. On “Fool Me Once” William Clark Green tells of a lonely man who jumps from woman to woman night after night. He doesn’t want to keep waking up alone, so he begs this woman to fool him once. Even if she’s lying, he wants to believe she loves him just to give him some temporary comfort.
“Sympathy” is the current single from the album, and shines as one of the top tracks. His ex-lover just got her own heart-broken by another man. Seeing her in pain brings Green some delight, and he’s not going to sympathize since she made him feel the same way. The song moves nicely between acoustic verses and rocking, anthemic choruses. “Sympathy” is more rock than country, but lyrically the song gets the karma point across without being brash or evil in its story. “Hey Sarah” carries a steel guitar in the production. The song is about getting over Sarah after the relationship ended. Whether it’s in a bar, in the arms of another woman, or at church, Green is determined to get over her.
On “Old Fashioned” William Clark Green takes the stage to complain about simpler times and ways of life disappearing. It begins as a nice sentiment with great imagery of how Austin is becoming like LA. “The interstate’s pumping just like a vein full of California license plates.” However, as the song progresses, Green becomes angrier with the way things have become and quite frankly, he gets rather preachy with his message. “Going Home” is about being excited about getting back home after being out on the road. He’s looking forward to seeing his love again, spending time with her in the bedroom, and simply just reuniting. There’s a light country/rock melody to the production that fits nicely with the lyrics. Finally, William Clark Green hits you hard with another heartbreaker to end the album. “Still Think About You” is as honest as someone can be in a song. He screwed up the relationship and knows it. He knows he may have led her on and is sorry that she “fell in love with someone you could never inspire.” It’s heartbreaking as he details how they first met to the eventual break up. The accompanying piano adds to the emotional brick of the song.
Even with the title track addressing the issue, Ringling Road is an album that won’t quiet the praises and hype of William Clark Green. He is a skilled singer and songwriter who conveys the emotion of the story perfectly. His voice, his lyrics, and the production of the songs work great in conjunction to create a mood that sticks with you. Ringling Road may be more southern rock than actual country, but the 11 tracks all come from the same roots. There’s a reason why William Clark Green has the praise he does, and Ringling Road could very well be the final push for the breakthrough his supporters have hyped up for the past couple of years.