REVIEW: Coco O’Connor’s New “This Ol’ War” Packs Emotional Wallop


The latest release from Coco O’Connor, This Ol’ War weighs in at a mere seven songs but packs an outsized emotional wallop. It’s full of classic country tunes and familiar topics told from less traditional perspectives.  And with Sadler Vaden (Jason Isbell) on guitar, along with Mike Rinne and Rich Brinsfield trading off on bass, Jon Radford on drums, Wanda Vick on fillde, dobro, and mandolin and Judy Rodman and Jeff White on vocals, the music is poised to be a hit.

The lead song, “Daddy’s Arms”, portrays the pain of military life from the viewpoint of a daughter who’s missed precious moments with her Navy dad, perhaps for decades. Even when he’s there, he’s not.

The album is full of road songs, too. “Abilene” has the narrator trying to find…something. But it ain’t to be found in that particular Texas town. “South of Santa Fe” reflects on O’Connor’s own journey to her second (New Mexico) home. Salvation is not guaranteed in a new town – “You may turn and walk away/Or find yourself and stay” – but the road, and the journey, provide their own promise – “Everything you’ll need/Is all you’ll ever find.” And, in “Crenshaw County”, the familiar road tale is told from a different perspective, that of a factory worker who feels that the boots she manufactures mean that she “walked a mile in all their shoes,” if only in her imagination. Sadly, as she’s never left her hometown, even this sense of armchair adventure can’t last forever – “When they took my job/They exported a part of me.” And the Petty-ish rocker “Free State on Winston” (Google it) recalls a real-life diaspora, right here in Civil War-era America.

The title track, though, is truly chilling, if only because it’s so relatable – the end-of-the-day, post-dinner silence of any relationship past its prime, when we’re all just “livin’ damage.” And, contrary to what relationship experts might tell us, “It’s never 50/50/It’s always compromise.” Still convinced that love always wins? O’Connor’s character would disagree – “For the life of me, I just can’t seem to figure out/Why we love someone.” Devastating stuff, whether you’ve been married, co-habitated, or even been on more than a half-dozen dates with the same person.

O’Connor left her Santa Fe home and returned to Nashville to work with producer Parker Cason at the Creative Workshop. The influence of both cities can be felt in the work – traditional musicianship combine with an open-road feel to offer much more (and much better) than typically comes out of the Nashville factory. The listener will be able to walk a lyrical mile in all of O’Connor’s characters’ shoes.  Get your copy, here!


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