Chuck Westmoreland’s second album, Long Winter Rodeo, is an LP full of country-wrought rockers penned by a tavern owner who’s heard a tale or two while working behind the bar.
Romantic questions abound throughout. The first two songs – “Sharp Rocks” (“It’s a long way home if you wanna go”) and “Cryin’ Shame” (“See you around some time again”) – along with Westmoreland’s slurring drawl (reminiscent of Lucinda Williams) portray the weariness that comes with seeing the same person again and again, hoping for different results while knowing they won’t come. Other songs bemoan a deep-seated dissatisfaction that can’t be cured – “Prisoners” starts by telling us “I really don’t like my name/And I really don’t like this place,” and “Mystic” shows us a desolate place where “It doesn’t seem like it starts/It doesn’t seem like it ends.”
Both lyrics and music are driving and efficient – there’s nary a wasted word or note on the album. And the throwback feel isn’t limited to twang. Westmoreland fronted synth-pop group The Kingdom over a decade ago, and “Denim Tears” reflects his indie past with a Smithereens-meets-alt-country feel, while the title track would feel at home next to Eddie Vedder’s work on the Into The Wild soundtrack.
Westmoreland’s Southern roots show best in the final song, “Slaughtered”. The teenage narrator falls in love with a ranching family’s daughter before meeting her – “I knew I loved you before you knew my name.” Some years later, when she returns home to bury her father, he comforts her, and then he needs to go “now that all the stock’s been slaughtered.” Will she go with him?
Produced by Westmoreland and backed by Andrew Lorish (steel guitar, electric guitar, dobro), Stephanie Woods (background vocals), Garrett Brown (bass, piano, organ) and Bryan Wollen (drums, percussion), Long Winter Rodeo is your best bet for the soundtrack to your next downbeat road trip. Get your copy, here.