Joe Purdy is as reliable as gravity; just as one will surely make you fall, the other will sing a song that will make you as depressed as any fictional Disney donkey could. Yes, country/folk star Joe Purdy is back with his 13th album (his first in almost 4 years), Eagle Rock Fire. The man used to be a machine when it came to spitting out albums, sometimes 3 a year, so expectations with this one might be raised a little with the extended recording vacation.
Being old reliable Joe, however, means that you are guaranteed a few things:
1-A tune about someone/something dying
2-One about old Joe meeting up with someone in a big city like NY or LA
3-A song about a broken heart and his lady leaving
4-A slew of lonely, dusty trail cowboy songs.
In fact, if a Joe Purdy album was made into a drinking game with these 4 expectations, no one would be conscious beyond the first half of the album. So let’s get our shit-kickers on, pour ourselves a whiskey (3 fingers; it’s Joe Purdy, after all) and get super, duper moody!
I am happy to say that lucky album 13 provides no surprises, as I like my Purdy dispirited and in the gutter.
“Eagle Rock Fire” opens the album and the bottle with a broken heart-that’s #2 on the list- (as does “Good Gal Away”) and it’s complete with accompanying band and plenty of country twang to bring us all down. Songs like “L.A. Livin'” and “This American” all feed off of classic Purdy concepts like a love lost or making it in the big city singing his little ditties.
“That Diamond Ring” and “Ba Girl” (2 #4’s!) touch on traditional country themes of drinking and loneliness, but they hit a slightly playful tone both musically and lyrically. I laughed when I heard “Happy songs don’t always tell the truth about the living hell that a woman sometimes brings…” on “Ba Girl” (preach on, good sir!!!). This track might be he highlight of the album; it’s a bittersweet tune about how all the women he meets are destined to drift in different directions.
The album ends fairly strong with “I’m Sorry You’re Blue” and “Wildflowers” -the latter of which you can slam your tumbler down on the table if your not yet slumped on it instead (I hope your keeping score out there!).
Quite predictably, Joe’s harmonica colors several songs on this album, but effectively, as per usual. The backing band plays it straight country; plenty of slide guitars and twang, with some piano and banjo thrown in for good measure. They add the necessary atmosphere to these songs, but do not overdo it, as these are, as in traditional Purdy, fragile songs.
In the end, this is typical Joe; sometimes hopeful, but mostly dire lyrics paired with melancholy rhythms. Eagle Rock Fire is every Purdy fan’s dream and worthy of the already existing catalog.
As an added bonus, we got a song about L.A. & N.Y., so take two shots!!
Joe K. (twitter: @KralTunes)
Some more Purdy goodness: