Album Review — Texas Exit’s ‘Black Water’

So there are several methods I deploy to discover new music. One of my more odd methods is I sometimes just go through upcoming releases by genre on iTunes and listen to previews of albums based on if I find the cover art to be interesting. It’s weird I know and 9 times out of 10 the album ends up being something where I listen to a few songs, discard it and never mention it on this blog. But then every once in a while I find something worth posting about and this is how I found Texas Exit and their debut album Black Water.

There isn’t a lot about this band mentioned outside of their Facebook page. From what I can find, Texas Exit is a trio based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada made up of Ryan Irving (lead guitar, vocals), William McLeod (bass) and Jon Pord (drums). They’re self-described as a country/rock powerhouse band with influences rooted in 90s country and 80s rock, citing Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn and Pantera as influences. After listening to Black Water, this couldn’t be a more accurate description and I’m so glad they live up to this billing because I’m a sucker for both of these styles of music (especially fused together).

Right away you get blasted with some crunchy, ZZ Top-like guitars with “My Own Bartender.” It’s a rollicking, in your face drinking song that you want to play to kick off a wild Friday night. “Hurricane” is about finding love against all odds. It’s a simple love song with a relatable story and reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival with it’s easy going melody. “When She Drinks” is straight 80s with it’s questionable opening line, but then it takes a funny left turn to describe a straight-laced working woman who enjoys staying in most nights and reading books. But when she does party and drink, she out drinks everybody. It’s not that original of a theme and the hair metal-like approach will rub a lot the wrong way, but I can also see the anthemic appeal of it too.

“Roll in the Sand” is what it sounds like: it’s about a drunken one-night stand. While it may be a bit more detailed for some listeners than they would like, the framing of the song from the point of wistful nostalgia and fondness I feel casts it in a better light than the majority of songs like this. Not to mention both sides know what they were in for and nobody appears to be used. It’s a just a story about a memory on a fun summer night. This is the type of simple storytelling that a lot of classic rock songs really excelled at (think songs like “Summer of ’69”).

Nostalgia is the center of “Home Again” too. This time it’s about revisiting home recalling the days of youth, specifically through the lens of the 90s. The guitar riff on this are so damn catchy and the singalong nature is just so much fun. And yeah as someone who grew up in the 90s, the lyrics are relatable (also this makes me feel old). Texas Exit doesn’t just excel at fun, guitar music though as they prove on “Empty Room.” It’s a dark, haunting and somber song about a father who lives in guilt over his missing daughter and is forced to live in heartbreak as he continues to search for her every day. The lingering steel guitar really adds to the sad nature of the song and gives it real levity behind some pretty dark lyrics.

Texas Exit stays in a dark place on the album’s title track, as it’s about an old dirt road that people go down to have fun and usually never return alive (but I thought it was all good times on a dirt road according to bro country). The thumping guitar is an instant toe tapper and head banger, matching the gritty lyrics well. Irving’s passionate delivery is great too. “My Something” is about a man who wants a woman, but she rejects him. Later she changes her mind and wants him back, only for him to turn the tables on her and reject her. It’s a great revenge song that conveys a well-deserved dishing of what goes around comes around while also avoiding being vindictive and petty like these types of songs often devolve into.

The reflective “Docks of P.E.I.” recalls a teenage romance that lingers in the mind of the man to this day, as he looks back with fondness upon the woman and the memories they made together. While the band goes to the nostalgia well a bit too much on this album, this song is arguably their best take on it, as the lyrics are well thought-out, heartfelt and the energetic piano play is really captivating. The band then goes out with a real bang on “Turns to Love.” Another song with fun guitar licks, but yet another song with great lyricism too. It’s about wanting to find love, even a bit desperate to find it and stuck in a bit of loneliness, yet in the end it focuses on the determination of the goal and finding someone who appreciates you for you. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy. But that’s 80s rock and part of what makes it so enjoyable.

Texas Exit delivers an absolute blast of a debut album in Black Water. While they definitely let their cited influences above shine through, personally the two bands I thought of when listening to this album are Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot, as the sound feels like it fits right in with those bands. While it’s understandable how a band wearing it’s influences on it’s sleeves can be a bit annoying, I find that Texas Exit does this in a way that feels like a good combination of homage and putting their own flair on it. While it’s easy to get lost in the fun guitar play, it’s the lyrics of this album that are it’s secret weapon and what makes this band stand out amongst other groups who attempt these popular sounds.

Grade: 8/10