Flatland Cavalry – Wandering Star
Really cool country music things can happen when two creative minds occupy the same space. Cleto Cordero, lead vocalist and songwriter for the Texas-bred band Flatland Cavalry, is married to Kaitlin Butts, who’s the artist behind my favorite country album of 2022, What Else Can She Do. When preparing to record his band’s new LP, Cordero was doing what many songwriters do at that point in the process – searching for one last song for the record. Butts reminded him of a supportive phrase he’d uttered in her direction the day before. After conferring with fellow songwriter Will Hoge, “Oughta See You (The Way I Do)” was born, and Wandering Star was on the road to completion.
Flatland Cavalry has always specialized in the kind of good barroom country that’s hard to find outside of the Lonestar State – solid musicianship and down-home storytelling with zero frills. That familiar (and very welcome) feel is back with Wandering Star’s first jam. Riffy, and with plenty of organ and fiddle, “The Provider” takes time out from grown-up (and thoroughly modernized) chores – “50 hour weeks/Put my life on the line/Workin’ on a farm/Hangin’ wind turbines” – to celebrate Friday nights, and Saturday nights, and any night where cold beer – and whatever else – are plentiful: “I’m a double-shift, smoke a spliff, up-all-nighter.” Good moments are also remembered in “Last American Summer.” Also co-written with Hoge, and originally inspired by what we all missed out on in the pandemic-marred Fourth of July in 2020, the tune widens its scope to become an upbeat yet wistful flashback to all the moments we may not have appreciated at the time – “Cheap cologne, nervous laughs/How does anybody fall so fast?/How my heart broke/It pounded like thunder.”
Diving more deeply into that subject of heartbreak, Cordero and Flatland Cavalry have a different take on a break-up song. “Only Thing at All,” written with Billy Montana and Ashley Monroe, drops the listener into the story post-break up, as the recovery is happening – “Woke up this morning, stronger than strong.” Amid the moving on, though, there’s still room for melancholy and doubt – “Sometimes you’re the last thing on my mind/Sometimes the only thing at all.” But the hallmarks of Wandering Star are the happier love songs. “Mornings With You” also features a wake-up call – “A fresh pot of Folgers/The smell of the rain” – but not a lonely one. Co-written with Monroe and Nick Walsh, and featuring Butts and Sydney Saenz (wife of bass player Jonathan Saenz) on background vocals, the acoustic-led tune comes from a band that’s grown up (and started to grow old) together, jointly realizing the importance of family – “I used to think the good life/Was burnin’ up the night…Now I live for mornings with you.” So when we get to the tender, supportive notes of “Oughta See You (The Way I Do),” the maturity makes sense. The 80s-isn heartland rocker, full of fiddle and guitar solos, is an upbeat celebration of commitment – “Don’t pay no mind to those folks on the sidelines, baby/You oughta see you the way I do.” At its heart, it’s a love song, but it also befits a band that’s found their niche and needs only do what they’re best at to prove their worth.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “The Best Days” is the biggest rocker on the album – lots of fiddle and guitar riffs to go with a healthy dose of perspective – “The stars go on forever like a billion fireflies/We’re glowing dust just burning out/Lucky to be alive.”
Wandering Star was produced, engineered and mixed by Dwight A. Baker (assisted by Jackson Alan Baker) and mastered by Dave McNair. Songs written by Cleto Cordero, Jason Albers, Dwight A. Baker, Billy Montana, Ashley Monroe, Will Hoge, Nick Walsh, Randy Rogers, Ben Chapman, Jason Nix, Driver Williams, Reid Dillon and Ben Roberts. Flatland Cavalry is Cleto Cordero (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Reid Dillon (electric guitar), Jonathan Saenz (bass, background vocals), Adam Gallegos (Wurlitzer, piano, organ, Mellotron, mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar), Jason Albers (drums, percussion) and Wesley Hall (fiddle), joined by Dwight A. Baker, Kaitlin Butts and Sydney Saenz (background vocals).
Go here to order Wandering Star (out October 27): https://shopflatlandcavalry.com/
Check out tour dates here: https://flatlandcavalry.com/