Flatland Cavalry – Songs to Keep You Warm
Flatland Cavalry’s new EP, Songs to Keep You Warm, released Oct. 28, lives up to its name, as the six songs feel like a cozy campfire session, with a bottle of Blanton’s being passed around, keeping spirits high, distracting us from the rest of the noise.
The EP starts off with “Mountain Songs,” which was released as a single, and it perfectly sets the tone for what lead singer and songwriter Cleto Cordero calls a “curated batch of songs” that “pair well with the season of chilly overcast days, falling leaves and all things pumpkin-spiced.”
“Damaged Goods” is the tune that repeatedly gets stuck in my head, often on my frigid walk to work. It’s beautifully and simply relatable: “I remember when I was 17 years old/the world seemed so big/and didn’t seem so cold.” Cordero’s voice is welcoming and honest. It’s conversational and cool. I feel like he’s telling a story, like I’m catching up with an old friend. That’s the tone Flatland Cavalry strives for, and they hit the mark on every track, especially this one. There’s comfort here, and it comes from Wesley Hall’s remarkable fiddle solo as much as Cordero’s vocals.
Cordero’s lyrics waste no time cutting right to the heart. “How Long” is a great example of this. There’s a pretty acoustic guitar and fiddle intro that slides right into “Moving on’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do/these days I can’t stand to look in the mirror.” It’s gripping, gritty, lonesome and true. Kaitlin Butts brings it home with haunting background vocals.
Every song on this EP stays with you. “Parallel” is the perfect mood shift here, as drummer Jason Albers picks up the tempo with a sweet percussive beat. Cordero compliments it with a guitar progression more reminiscent of Jack Johnson than any outlaw country artist. The build into the chorus and addition of Ashley Monroe’s bright, hopeful background vocals perfect the song, making it contagiously relistenable.
My personal favorite is “If We Said Goodbye,” a reflective tune that has a bit of a holiday feel mixed with the sad, sentimental side of Jason Isbell. Listening to it while shoveling snow at my place outside the Elkhorn Mountains in Montana did warm me up a bit, at least for a little while: “The beer is hot/the folks are cold/the night is young/and I feel old.” Again, I can picture Cordero telling this story with friends, perhaps this time by a wood stove. The sincerity of this sorrowful song reminds me a little of fellow Texan Steve Earle’s early work. The string arrangements here almost bring me to tears, which is a testament to producer Bruce Robison, who recorded the album at The Bunker in Lockhart, Texas.
Songs to Keep You Warm closes with “Show Me Now Which Way to Go,” a nightcap featuring Adam Gallegos on keys and banjo and Reid Dillon on electric guitar. Like bassist Jonathan Saenz, the musicianship from Flatland Cavalry band members elevates each tune, keeping the solos and fills melodic and subtle, tastefully in tune with the moments and memories Cordero shares.
You can listen to this album chronologically or you can pick it up with any song. They all stand alone, bringing with them serenity, longing, understanding and – yes – even warmth.
Highlights: “If We Said Goodbye,” “Parallel,” “Damaged Goods”
Songs to Keep You Warm is now streaming wherever you listen to music. For more information go to www.flatlandcavalry.com.