Brent Cobb
Photo: Jace Kartye / Sacks & Co.

Brent Cobb Searches the Sky to Find the ‘Southern Star’

Southern Star succeeds because country’s Brent Cobb is more interested in telling a story and having a good time than pontificating.

Southern Star
Brent Cobb
Ol' Buddy / Thirty Tigers
22 September 2023

According to Georgia native Brent Cobb, the American South is a unique, magic place. While conventional wisdom tells one to look to the North Star (Polaris) as a way to orient oneself, Cobb wryly suggests that he’s guided by a “Southern Star” (as the title song puts it). This wisdom serves as the album’s theme. Cobb looks to his Southern heritage, the land, and the spirit of the place to set his fables. The Southern locations can be as much a character as those who populate his songs. The record was recorded at the legendary Capricorn studios in Macon.

Cobb’s pride serves him well. He knows what he is talking about, even when tossing the bull. That mythmaking, tall tale-telling spirit can be frequently found in Southern literature and music. So Cobb offers songs about living the dream, childhood fun, and just hanging out entrenched in the South and lets his creativity loose. The imagination drives the tracks, even when they are rooted in reality.

That’s even true when Cobb’s getting cosmic. When he looks at the sky, he seeks more than stars. “Where do we come from, where do we go? / Answers to questions we may never know,” he gently croons on “Patina”. The lyrics zoom in and let one know the narrator is driving his car with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on his girlfriend’s thigh. Existential inquiries can best be resolved mentally when driving an automobile, especially when accompanied by one’s lover. The meaning of life can be found in the quotidian pleasures of the road. You don’t need to be a Southerner to know that; just ask Bruce Springsteen or any of a host of other Yankees.

The standout track on Southern Star is “When Country Came Back to Town”. Cobb recalls a time 15 years ago when popular country music seemed stale. He then provides the listener with a list of the new artists who have emerged and revitalized the country music scene. It’s a fantastic song because Cobb skillfully manages to list almost three dozen wonderful artists who were once unknown or marginal but have released many great albums. Some of these musicians have sold millions and won Grammy Awards, while others are only known to cult audiences. However, whether Cobb’s promoting Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton or Charley Crockett, Mike & The Moonpies, and Nikki Lane, Cobb’s taste is right on the mark. We have recently lived in a blessed time for new country artists.

However, while everything and everyone Cobb cites is true in a factual way, this is as mythic as a Brer Rabbit story. The best-selling country artist of 2008 was Taylor Swift. Obviously, not much has changed in that regard, except that Swift is no longer country. The other best-selling mainstream country artists of 2008 include singers such as Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney. In 2023, the list would include performers such as Morgan Wallen and Jason Aldean. The most popular country artists have rarely been as interesting as those on the border. Cobb is right in the larger sense, as many artists who were once marginal (whom he names) have become much more successful. That has always been the case in popular music, whether country, hip-hop, rock, etc. Innovation always comes from the fringes, not the center. Everything must change is the one thing that never changes.

Southern Star succeeds because Cobb is more interested in telling a story and having a good time than pontificating. He’s celebrating our good fortune on “When Country Came Back to Town”, not complaining about the past. Whether Cobb sings a sad song like “Miss Ater” about lonely women and men or a rocker such as “‘On’t Know When” with a boogie beat big enough to swallow a dance hall, the best way to hear them is with a cold one. Cobb’s here to entertain. The sun may rise in the east and set in the west, but Cobb’s ears are tuned to the music of the South.

RATING 7 / 10