Georgie Thorogood takes a listen to the new album from the Texan trio who have carved a niche for themselves, their style and their indisputably “country” music, within a genre currently dominated with bro-country.
As a long-time Midland fan, it is easy to convince yourself that each record they put out will be great. At first listen, this 12-track album is no different, however having listened more closely, it’s not such a done deal. Written predominantly with regular collaborators Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, it doesn’t have the zest of previous albums “Let It Roll” or their debut, “On The Rocks“.
Starting off with the title track of the album, The Last Resort, the listener is immediately transported to Texas, from the very first twangs of the very first bars. No doubt about it. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it is a strange starting point for the album, with its slightly depressing lyrics and lack of energy, it feels a little flat.
Track two, If I Lived Here, is a little more upbeat with a stronger guitar intro and a more positive vibe, this is moving back towards the drinking song feel that earned the band their fun reputation. With an extended instrumental mid-way through and an uptick in tempo as the song moves along, the whiskey-drinking-in-a-saloon-bar vibes are strong!
Moving on to Two To Two Step, originally released in 2021 as part of “The Last Resort EP”, this feels more comfortable and a feel good song that would be great to see performed live. A great sing-along. Song four, Take Her Off Your Hands, was also part of the 2021 EP, but is well placed here to bring a little change of pace. Mark Wystrach’s vocals, and in fact that of the band as a whole, come more to the fore here and it’s welcome to hear.
Sunrise Tells The Story is the first song on the tracklist with a change of writers and it seems quite obvious that there are fresh inputs into the creation of a track which signifies a real upturn in the enjoyment of the album. Co-written with Jessi Alexander (who also wrote hits such as “The Climb”, “I Drive Your Truck”, “Mine Would Be You”) and Aaron Raitiere, it retains the Texan twang but it is more of a story telling country song than some of the others included in this album. It’s a thumbs up from this listener!
Next up comes a Midland-style love song, And Then Some. Another track first seen on The Last Resort EP, this is a great song and although it is written again by Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, along with Cam, Jess and Mark, it is more interesting than their earlier offerings on this record. A great guitar solo and a couple of changes of pace keep it an appealing song to listen to.
Jon Pardi joins the team now for Longneck Way To Go, and his unique vocals and general talent at performing a party song make this another Midland classic. Written alongside pop-country writer Ashley Gorley and Rhett Akins, it begs the question as to whether this was ever an option as a Thomas Rhett song. The answer to that question is elusive, but it has found a more than suitable home here with the Midland/Pardi combo.
Life Ain’t Fair comes next and is written solely by Jess Carson, who also takes on the lead vocal duties. It’s somehow a little nostalgic and feel-good at the same time. We really are “all goin’ ‘round together at the life ain’t fair!” This track is less heavily produced than the rest of the album, to its great benefit. That, along with Carson’s vocal turn, gives the album a moment of something different – still Midland, of course, but perhaps with a little Gulf Coast feel.
With a Genesis-esque intro*, King Of Saturday Night ramps up the energy and country-rock is back (*there is some dispute within the Six Shooter team about whether the first few bars are more Genesis- or Rolling Stones-like, but the author stands by her temptation to burst into the “I Can’t Dance” lyrics!). Written by bassist Cameron Duddy, also a music video producer extraordinaire (Bruno Mars, One Republic, Fifth Harmony), this is a standout track. Duddy’s lead vocal has a gritty, slightly sleazy edge to it that suits the track perfectly. Of the trio, he’s the one with the right delivery to carry a song like this.
The “On The Rocks” & “Let It Roll” Midland vibe is back with a vengeance in Paycheck To Paycheck with simple but effective harmonies building the song up nicely. This will be a great song to look forward to at a live show. Thomas Rhett joins the writing team for Bury Me In Blue Jeans and, whilst it isn’t the standout song of the record, it is a strong filler and will be popular with a slightly more commercially minded audience.
The final song of the album is of course, Adios Cowboy. Released on the 2021 EP, this isn’t a new track but is a good closing song. Written alongside JT Harding (Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Darius Rucker amongst others) and Marve Green (Lonestar, Carrie Underwood, Reba McIntyre, George Strait – the list goes on) this has a lovely feel about it and brings the album nicely together as the final track.
Final thoughts after listening to this album several times are that, well – it’s ok. It gets progressively better and more interesting after “Two To Two Step”, but is let down by the first two tracks which frankly, feel a little flat and uninspiring. It would be nice to see Midland return with renewed vigour during their tour later this month and an atmospheric live show might inject the enthusiasm needed to bring the start of this album up to the level of “Let It Roll” and “On The Rocks”.
Midland – The Last Resort: Greetings From – Track Listing
1. The Last Resort (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
2. If I Lived Here (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
3. Two To Two Step (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
4. Take Her Off Your Hands (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
5. Sunrise Tells The Story (Jess Carson, Jessi Alexander, Aaron Raitiere)
6. And Then Some (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
7. Longneck Way To Go (featuring Jon Pardi) (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Rhett Akins, Ashley Gorley)
8. Life Ain’t Fair (Jess Carson)
9. King Of Saturday Night (Jess Carson)
10. Paycheck To Paycheck (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Rhett Akins, John Osborne)
11. Bury Me In Blue Jeans (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
12. Adios Cowboy (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Marv Green, JT Harding)