Cut from the sonic cloth of Tom Waits, John Prine, Colter Wall and Bob Dylan, Ian Noe adds some Appalachian flavor to his music to make it authentic, genuine and vital. Over the past few years, Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers have both emerged from the same viewpoint, but neither of them ever quite captured the desolate emotions of greater Kentucky in such a somber way. Simpson had a winking mysticism, Childers’ music is permeated with adrenaline and Noe is straightforward and plainspoken about what he’s seen and the realities are delivered in a stark, sparse manner. Dave Cobb is once again in the producer chair for a fantastic piece of art
“Junk Town” is a desperate statement on the desperate towns that permeate the Rust Belt. It’s harsh and honest. Two of the best qualities in any song. Throughout the album Noe delivers the lyrics with colloquialisms and turns of phrase that are unique to his geography and unique to his art. “Loving You” is a love song resigned to the placements of life. The protagonists are staying together, not out of love…but out of avoiding the pain-staking process of untethering from one another.
Loving you is a pain I’ve found
and I’m just a fool for hanging around
Noe evokes vintage Jim Croce on “That Kind of Life” both in lyrical content and melodic structure. But, on an album of understated vocals…this just may be Noe’s most pleasing vocal effort. Much of the record is racked with dark despair, but the record is not gloomy. There is a track titled “Meth Head” that is as gnarly and gritty as you would imagine. It’s music much closer to the folk tradition than that of country music. It’s promising and essential. Ian Noe is promising. What he’s telling you isn’t always easy to hear, but you can’t stop listening.