John Baumann is one of the finest young songwriters plying his trade in Texas and beyond at the moment. He’s developed a knack for hard-scrabble emotional lyrics paired with sneakily infectious lyrics. He’s as adept at drawing from the well of personal experience as he is observation and imagination. That’s not an easy trick for any songwriter to learn, yet Baumann mastered it all before age 30. He’s experienced a lot of love and loss in his young life, including the uber impactful experience of unexpectedly losing his father as a young man. This loss informs even the brightest moments in his songs as Baumann grounds elation with emotion. Country Shade is his latest album and it proves he’s only sharpened the edges that have made him a songwriter to watch.
“Next Ride Around the Sun” is the lead single and is representative of the album as a whole. The track is a reflective look that reminds us all to not take things for granted. It was inspired by an off-hand comment to Baumann to “enjoy every second”. When he compounded that with the inability to call up his father, Baumann leaned into the notion that we all need to make it count each and every day. “Daylights Burning” is a brooding song about the advice we all receive when getting over a breakup. Baumann manages to use common phrases and analogies in this song that you’ve heard before, but the trick is the way he mixes them and delivers them makes it fresh. “The Country Doesn’t Sound the Same” is a trip through both the lyrical and the metaphorical. Baumann takes country radio to task while also examining the country landscape itself. It’s an examination that addresses the changing world radio and rural America now find themselves in. The times are changing for both of them, and not necessarily for the best. Baumann finds a way to address that in a forthright and direct manner without being preachy. “Grandfather’s Grandson” is exactly as the title suggests. Family pride, generational inheritance of all kinds. Some things that are handed down come in tangible form and others exist in the soul.
Country Shade proves Baumann’s songwriting promise has been realized. What many saw in him from those first songs has come fully into its own. On his fantastic Proving Grounds record, Baumann lamented in the song “Here I Come” that he must’ve written two hundred bad songs before he landed on his first keeper. That 10,000 Outlier type theory has been put to practice here and the lessons Baumann learned on how to tacitly craft a song are now matched up with his ability to get even further into the emotions of his words. Be they something from his heart and own life or something from his imagination and observation. This is a master class in songwriting and something that anyone who is craving real, genuine songwriting should listen to and share with those who need to be enlightened. Country Shade is pure light.