If you’re a follower of Country Perspective, you’ll notice one of the themes I’ve been harping on lately is distinctiveness. Too many young and new artists suffer from a lack of distinctiveness on their albums. The music just doesn’t do enough to stand out from the rest of the crowd and music that came before it. You’ll see new artist after new artist just recycle a sound we’re all familiar with and you eagerly await someone to come along like Sturgill Simpson in 2013, Karen Jonas in 2014 or Chris Stapleton in 2015 that will deliver something special and completely change the genre. Well I think we’ve found that artist for 2016 and his name is Paul Cauthen. Mark it down folks: this is the next big star in the independent country/Americana scene. The Texan used to front an Americana band called Sons of Fathers, but a few years back realized he was ready to do something else. He’s now struck out on his own to release his debut album My Gospel vis Lightning Rod Records. And it’s probably one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard this year.
Right away it’s Cauthen’s voice that stands out to me. At times it can be this deep, bellowing voice that engulfs you from the moment you hear it and at other times it has this soaring, soulful sound about it. Cauthen cites country, blues and souls as his influences. It definitely shows in his voice, as it reminds me of a combination of Waylon Jennings, Bill Withers and Neil Young. Cauthen reminds me the most of Waylon on “Let It Burn.” It just sounds like something he would cut on one of his albums, especially when Cauthen’s voice is growling similar to his. But then when Cauthen hits the higher notes it wouldn’t sound out of place on an old soul record. It’s kind of surreal how Cauthen can embody two completely different sounds on one song and sound equally great with both (credit too to producer Beau Bedford). The album’s title track ties the whole album together and serves as Cauthen’s personal creed and anthem. From the lyrics to the emphatic organ and backing choir, it’s an uplifting song that shows him completely in his element. There’s just so much honesty and passion behind every word in this song and this will be reverberated in the listener as they take the song in.
Opening song “Still Drivin’” sounds like something straight out of the outlaw era of country music. It’s one of several moments on the album that has this sort of swagger and coolness about it that you just can’t help getting wrapped up in. It’s probably most evident on “I’ll Be the One.” The spacey steel guitar combined with the percussion really makes for a fun and catchy sound. The song itself is about a guy declaring his love for a woman and vowing to be the one for her. It makes for the most memorable song of the album in my opinion, as you’ll probably be humming this to yourself for the next day after giving it extensive listens. “Hanging out on the Line” sees a man desperate to win over the heart of a woman he deeply loves. Cauthen sounds great on every song, but this might be his best vocal performance on the album as the helplessness and desperation he conveys in his vocals are palpably fantastic.
The themes of love and the super natural meet on “Marfa Lights.” A man likens his love with a woman to the Marfa lights, which runs for miles and miles. Texans like Cauthen are quite familiar with this place, but everyone else probably not so much. Marfa lights refer to lights that have been seen around U.S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat that’s east of Marfa, Texas. Many people have claimed to witness ghosts and UFOs here, making it a hot spot for people who believe in paranormal activities. Research says though that these lights do not have anything to do with aliens or anything of the sort, but are just lights from cars and campfires. It’s cool to hear about weird local places like this in songs, so kudos to Cauthen for incorporating this interesting place into his music.
Some songs you just want to sit back and bask in their sound as you listen to this album. There’s just such a warm vibrancy and colorfulness about them on songs such as “As Young as You’ll Ever Be” and “Be There Soon.” The twangy pedal steel guitar and the pianos and organs that show up throughout this album all unite to make for a really intriguing sound. Cauthen explores self-realization and discovery on “Once You’re Gone.” He ponders whether him and his partner should head out west and discover new things, but also realizes once they do they can’t go back to the way things were. It’s a realization of how a journey ahead can shape your life into something completely different and new, never to turn back to once was in your life. “Grand Central” and “Saddle” are about the freedom of life on the open road. Specifically “Grand Central” is about a man who is hurting and takes to the open road (well in this case train) to heal his broken heart. It’s one of those songs that won’t immediately grab you, but once it clicks you can really resonate with the lyrics. Meanwhile “Saddle” is one of those songs you put on as you go on a long drive in the night. It just has this naturally adventurous attitude about it, which is something I can say about this entire album.
From beginning to end Paul Cauthen blows me away with My Gospel. It’s hands down the best debut album I’ve heard this year and perfectly exemplifies the distinctiveness that every new artist should strive for in their music. Not to mention you can tell this comes straight from the heart and soul of Cauthen, as it shines through on every aspect of the album. This is the type of music the world needs more of today. With My Gospel Cauthen immediately establishes himself as one of the best in the genre. The sky is the limit for him and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Recommend ? – YES
Album Highlights: I’ll Be The One, My Gospel, Still Drivin’, Saddle, Grand Central, Let It Burn, Hanging out on the Line
Bad Songs: Nope
Stream The Entire Album Below: