Handsome Humbles

REVIEW: Handsome and the Humbles “Alternative –> Country”


Handsome and the Humbles – Alternative—–>Country

The sad, but indisputable, axiom of country and Americana music is that we wouldn’t have very much of it if not for someone else’s pain. Knoxville’s Josh Smith knows both ends of this equation – he’s a fan of sad songsmiths like Jason Isbell, but between losing his father and his marriage in succession, he has enough of his own sadness to write about. Smith’s band, Handsome and the Humbles, finds itself a little less buoyant than normal on its latest release, Alternative—–>Country, helping Smith share his troubles.

Smith intros Alternative—–>Country with a caution against the well-meaning, but ultimately empty, positivity thrust upon the grieving. Brief album opener “Be Around” is an unusually pensive track for the band, and Smith explains the mood when he sings, “Don’t try and tell me it will get better/Man, it always gets better/And it always gets worse.” This record doesn’t have its heart set on being a downer, though. Smith’s longtime counterpart Josh Hutson provides all the guitar riffs you need on an Americana record, and country rockers like “Now I Know” provide lift for the pathos, while the album’s first single, “You Walked Away,” gets a nice boost from Matt Coker’s organ line.

Another Smith collaborator, Brian Paddock, chips in on “Stars Over Dallas,” a wistful musician’s road tale that has a lived-in melancholy about it – “Days without showers and driving for hours/Listening to the same old songs.” “I Don’t Get High Anymore” perks up the mood with some Southern rock jangle and an unexpected incentive for cleaning life up a little – “80 dollars is a hell of a lot of money/When you don’t get high anymore.” And while there’s the requisite country weeper in “Why I Grieve,” with a familiar (if slightly ill-advised) prescription for sorrow – “Whiskey neat and Ambien/I’m gonna sleep tonight” – the record ends on an uptempo high with a reminder about that point in time when sour memories begin to approach bittersweet – “But when I’m alone, my heart keeps returning to you.” The battle’s not over, and the pain is still there, but hope has started to push its way in.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Nice Things” has a pretty acoustic intro, an excellent solo from Hutson, and a tacit acknowledgment that some of us (musicians and music writers alike) don’t quite know how to grow up – “I’m not really sure I’d change/Or if I could.”

Alternative—–>Country was recorded by Josh Hutson, Josh Smith, Kris “Tugboat” Killingsworth and Thomas Smith, mixed by Hutson, Killingsworth and Thomas Smith and mastered by Thomas Smith. Lyrics by Josh Smith, music by Smith and Hutson (“Stars Over Dallas” co-written with Brian Paddock). Handsome and the Humbles is Josh Smith (lead vocals, acoustic guitars, bass, backing vocals), Josh Hutson (guitars, vocals, keyboards, programming), Marcus Balanky (slide guitar), Lauryl Brisson (drums), along with Kris Killingswroth (drums) and Matt Coker (organ).

Go here to listen to Alternative—–>Country (out May 19): https://lnk.to/Fp6j3F

Check out tour dates here: http://www.handsomeandthehumbles.com/schedule

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