We’ve all heard some version of the aphorism, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But there’s a flip side that many have found – if you make your love your life, it can become less appealing over time. Louisiana’s Chad Richard was warned of this at a young age, and he resolved to keep music as a side gig, a distraction from the rigors of his day job. Fast-forward past 30 years (!) working at a chemical plant and a lifetime of late-night solo gigs, and Richard (pronounced, in proper Cajun fashion, REE-shard) is releasing only his second album, Worthy Cause, a work that makes us wish he’d never set foot inside that factory.
Richard grew up in the Sabine River valley, which straddles Louisiana and Texas, and that influence can be found in both the music (country, blues, soul, Cajun, swing) and lyrics. The first song, “Slow Rollin State Line”, is a direct call-out to his home, with references to music, food and pastimes endemic to both sides of the river. Accompanied by amiable guitar and fiddle, it’s a fond look back at his home without falling into the trap of idealizing a place or time.
Accepting imperfections, both his own and those of others, is the simple focus of many of Richard’s songs. “Love Anyway”, with its wistful fiddle line, acknowledges that, “People hurt people every day/No, that’s not OK/But love anyway.” The title track begins with voice and acoustic guitar, adding steel and organ before eventually building to a full band while Richard marvels at a woman who’s always got his back – “You stand by me/Without cause” – even in his worst moments – “Now I say things/A decent man shouldn’t even think…But a stern finger to those pretty lips/Can usually hush all that talk.”
Texas references are plentiful on the album. “Fredericksburg” pays tribute to the hill country town that houses the legendary Luckenbach music venue, and “Shawdy and a Shiner” is nothing but the simple tale of a man, his dog and the titular beer. But the best moments on Worthy Cause are a mix of sweet and sad. “12 More Days of Blue” has the singer enjoying the two days he sees his son while trying not to dwell on the dozen that he doesn’t: “12 days of worry and wondering and doing without/My little man, Lord that’s just too much.” And “German Angels” is the oddly affecting story of a dead man gently haunting his old home. Set upon an acoustic bed, Richard sings of a ghost who had a decision to make, and he chose to stay in a place he loved: “Choosing these limestone walls over streets of gold was not an easy choice/But this is close enough to heaven for me.” It’s uniquely sweet. And, like the spirit in his song, Richard has made the right choice – he didn’t choose to pursue the country music pot of gold, but he’s right where he should be. And right where we need him.
Worthy Cause was produced by Walt Wilkins and Ron Flynt, recorded at Jumping Dog Studio in Austin and mastered by Jerry Tubb at Terra Nova Mastering, also in Austin. Musicians include Wilkins (guitars, percussion and harmonies), Flynt (bass and keys), Ray Rodriguez (drums), Bill Small (bass), Corby Schaub (lap steel), Chip Dolan (keys), Marian Brackney (fiddle and viola), Geoff Queen (steel guitar and dobro), Matt Giles (guitar), Kurt Baumer (fiddle), and Tina Mitchell Wilkins (harmonies). https://www.chadrichardsongs.com/