And Now Let’s Turn To Page (Thirty Tigers)
THE SEPARATIONF BETWEEN CHURCH and (e)state, god and the devil, sin and redemption, guilt & regret is as nebulous to the point of non-existence in country music as it is in soul. Which is part of what makes country and soul great, of course and makes those two genres closer than chauvinist haters of either want to accept.
(Of course that’s a different matter from the many, many records of fatuousness and fraud ostensibly built on those “holy” foundations, as anyone who’s been near a bible-thumping hypocrite in a big hat and thank you Jesus boots, a sharp pair of drop-to-your-knees trousers or a prosperity gospel hype band, at any time can attest. But I digress.)
Brent Cobb exists at these two intersections on this clearly personal, and short, album of old, re-worked and new. Songs of his youth, songs of his heritage and songs of his family come from the Sunday service and the weekday spirituals, along with a new song he’s written with his wife, Layne Cobb.
In the main they don’t get reworked for the 21st century, they don’t get retooled for a new message either. Its protagonists are sometimes forlorn, sometimes surviving on nothing more than hope, but always the cross is rugged, the blood cleansing and the ties binding. And Cobb sings them with hint of a crack in the perfection that must always accompany the humble seeker, climaxing with the unison work of his wife, parents, cousin and sister in the intimate a capella. Blessed Be The Tie That Binds.
The musical foundation is built on the aforementioned intersection, sculptured by his cousin, the Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb. The slow guide of mountains gospel meets the church organ of soul, the guitar cry of country meets the chug of southern rock, and maybe you can hear a honky tonk out the back of the revival hall.
In We Shall Rise, the nod to the Rolling Stones (who knew how to steal southern American music’s melange better than most Americans) is as enthusiastic as the turn to some state’s fair choogling in the mould of Drive-By Truckers, while Old Country Church borrows from the Black gospel quartets as easily as it picks up from a Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm earthy groove. Just A Closer Walk With Thee merges both sides of town on a blend of organ and guitar, while Are You Washed In The Blood has the most radical adjustment with its bar band bustle leaning into the uptempo blues and a hint of Duane Allman in the guitar playout.
Though Cobb, born and raised in Georgia, had a near-death experience of his own in 2019 to spark a re-evaluation of his priorities and values, it wouldn’t be too much to speculate if the past couple of years hasn’t focused the minds, the faith and the history of a few Southerners. After all, last year, Alabama’s Shelby Lynne did something similar to Cobb with her album, The Servant.
Lynne was more raw, more vibrant than Cobb, who can be more sweet than compelling, but And Now Let’s Turn To Page has the kick in its caboose alongside the smooth earnestness, and that has its own appeal.