The first track just reached out and grabbed me—but first tracks often do. “3:30 in the Afternoon” rocks the way country music used to rock: straight up boogie about behaving badly because your heart has been broken. Dallas Wayne sings like the earth rumbling, but he’s not half a poet: this song has tears, cigarettes, beers, missed phone calls, a heart that’s “kinda hard to carry even though it’s broke in two”, insomnia, and a twangy Duane Eddy solo that just won’t quit. But I ain’t gonna commit to this record… I’ve been burned before.
The second track is the one the album is named for, and it’s chilling and weird and modern and old-fashioned-y—but title tracks can be discounted, they’re usually always much better than the rest of the album. Still, it’s hard to ignore a country song from the point of view of a crazed stalking fan, especially one with great details like shirts bought off Ebay and the way the rain falls in Philadelphia. The riff is mournful and masterful, Wayne’s bass voice is creepy and intense, and the song’s pacing is perfect, especially when we realize that the narrator is holding a gun. But I’m no fool… Dallas Wayne ain’t putting one over on this old critic.
The third track—okay, he got me with “Junior Samples”, because it’s got three things I love: western swing riffs (with the singer giving shout-outs to the musicians when they do their solos), great wordplay, and a Hee Haw reference right there in the title. It’s a song about a big fat guy who loves to eat: “He’s the master of disaster with a spoon, fork or knife / Yeah, Junior samples everything in sight”, so you have to respect that. So yeah, I’m feeling that tingling sensation I feel when I fall in love with a record.
And I can’t really deny that I still feel this way during the fourth track, the mournful “Under the Overpass”, and the fifth track, the rowdy bawdy sexy stupid two-stepper “Tex-Tosterone” (“I needed some things, so I went to the store / The saleslady said ‘Check your package at the door / We don’t allow stealing, and nothing is free / But if that’s a pickle in your pocket, you’re comin’ with me’”) makes me laugh out loud at least four times, every time. Six is “It’s All Over, All Over Town”, and it gets extra points for its phraseology, dropping gems like “You’re with him, livin’ it up / And I’ll never live it down” like it ain’t no thing but a chicken wing. Chills, people, chills.
Quickly, now. Seven is “She’s Good to Go”, which details the final steps taken by a woman as she’s leaving her useless man; lotta sympathy in Dallas Wayne. Eight is “You Can Count on Me”, and it’s fun as hell. Nine—okay, I’m as tired of this way of writing the review as you are. But there are four more great songs I haven’t given away, and I kinda want them to remain mysterious. (Can’t sleep on “Downhill Slide”, though, one of the great celebrations of loserdom of our time, made all the better because Wayne treats spiraling depression and gruesome hallucinations like they ain’t no thing. Y’know, like a chicken wing again.)
The record to which this can be most easily compared is Charlie Robison’s Life of the Party; these two Lone Star Bards (I count Wayne as a Texan because his family’s from there and because he lives in Austin now, but he grew up all over and in Missouri, and lived in Finland and San Francisco) share a freaky gift for making macabre observations without feeling the need to be all showy about it. There’s also a lot of Robert Earl Keene and Marty Stuart in Dallas Wayne, and some Dolly Parton and Matraca Berg too. In fact, the whole of country music is in here somewhere. And it’s fun as hell looking for it, or stumbling across it in the dark. Oh, this tingling feeling is overtaking my critical faculties. Feel free to take this with a lot of salt… but I mean it, every word.
Suffice it to say that Dallas Wayne has constructed one of the great country albums of our time. It doesn’t sound like it, at first; I’m not sure this is blingy enough or Buffetty enough to have any crossover appeal at all. And there are no songs saluting the troops for their brave sacrifices, nothing that implies that we have lost our beautiful golden city on the hill, and no bitching about political correctness. So I’m Your Biggest Fan might be commercial suicide. But it also might be the most perfect thing I’ve heard this year.
(Don’t I always say that? Yes, I do. I’m always right, though.)