Texas songwriter Hayes Carll definitely knows how to identify a great song to cover. I listened to “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” about 50 times before I found out Hayes didn’t originally write the song. I was even more surprised to find out that the original songwriter hailed from Winnipeg ,Canada, which is about as far from West Texas as one can get. That was my introduction to Scott Nolan.
Scott released his most recent album Silverhill this past December and somehow it was not until last month that I started bingeing on it. He recorded the album in Silverhill, Alabama using the band Willie Sugarcapps to paint the background on a body of work I consider to be a masterpiece.
I always consider truly narrative songwriting to be the absolute easiest to completely botch. If it’s not authentic and doesn’t feel real it comes across clunky and forced. When executed correctly it is the pinnacle of musical storytelling. Artists who can weave a complete world and give the listener a visceral experience in a 5-minute time window are as rare as great knuckleball pitchers. Scott Nolan is one of those rare artists.
The album opens with a sparse arrangement guitar, snare and mandolin on the brutally beautiful “When You Leave This World”. A tale of a man unexpectedly settling into a relationship and living full of regret; taking out his troubles on those around him. Lines like “In one conversation, short term destination, it led to a lifetime away from home” capture how lives end up defined by moments and one day we wake up not believing how we got there.
The third track, “Fire it Up” brings the listener into a young musicians development. Uncovering an old guitar and discovering rock and roll for the first time is captured in this musical snapshot of a youth full of anticipation and expectation. Who among us hasn’t played the rock star in the living room at 10 yrs old?
The album has its great moments of levity as well including the swampy blues number “Shake it Loose”. The song never needs to be to deep lyrically as it does what it is supposed to and gets you moving. You can feel that influence of the Southern recording location here. “Lets Play Twister” about a wine fueled night with the opposite sex is fun as hell.
I could easily break down every tune and my feelings on it but I think it makes the most sense that you just turn it on and experience it. Writing about music is strange territory for sure and the real review is how you feel when it works its way into your ear canals.
I’m going to start recommending some indulgences that I think fit the album. This one feels like a pack of Marlboro Reds and Jack Daniels/Ginger on the front porch. Trust me the world will break your heart long before that combination kills you.