PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Chuck Mead Hits 'Close to Home'

Photo: Jason Moon Wilkins / Conqueroo

Chuck Mead taps into Americana and emerges with Close to Home, which might just be the coolest album you'll hear in 2019.

Close to Home
Chuck Mead

Plowboy

21 June 2019

"Did that sound drunk enough?" asks Chuck Mead at the end of "Better Than I Was (When I Wasn't So Good)", the fourth track on Close to Home. Mead's question sums up the giddy good fun that permeates Close to Home from beginning to end. It might still be too early in the year to toss around superlatives such as "best", but it's safe to say that Close to Home is quite likely the most fun, varied, and generally delightful blast of rock 'n' roll and country, tinged with hints of soul, reggae, and gospel, that will be filed within the "Americana" genre this year.

Mead, formerly a member of alt-country band BR5-49, blasts Close to Home wide open with a raging rockabilly ode to stargazing, "Big Bear in the Sky." The second track, "I'm Not the Man for the Job", is Mead's "Take This Job and Shove It". Here, Mead combines pedal steel guitar accents courtesy of guitarist Carco Clave with a reggae-ish rhythm and the vocal exhortation, "See ya / Wouldn't want to be ya," as Mead notes that he is, indeed, not the man for the job.

The musical variety continues with the third track, "My Baby's Holding It Down", a mid-tempo ballad that lives at that metaphorical and metaphysical intersection where elements of folk, soul, pop, and country magically meet to create transcendent songs. We're talking tunes like "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay", "Rainy Night in Georgia", and "Behind Closed Doors", among others. Yes, "My Baby's Holding It Down" is worthy enough to be mentioned in the company of those classics.

"The Man Who Shook the World", another raver, sounds like it could be about Sam Phillips, the late founder of the legendary Sun Records, which launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others. Whether or not Mead is literally talking about Phillips when he invites listeners to "shake the hand that shook the hand of the man who shook the world", it makes sense that it could be about Phillips. Close to Home was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service, in Memphis, Tennessee and the spirit of Phillips and the artists he mentored fully inhabits Close to Home. That spirit reveals itself in excellent songwriting and musicianship throughout the album.

Mead displays a knack for clever story songs, like "Daddy Worked the Pole", which tells a Chuck Berry-like tale of young love and marriage, with a twist, and a message: "to make it through you gotta do what you gotta do"; and "Billy Doesn't Know He's Bad", a morality tale that betrays a distinct Warren Zevon influence. Oh, and do you crave a new classic country drinking song? Chuck Mead is happy to oblige with "Tap Into Your Misery".

Each of the 11 songs on Close to Home contains some element of greatness, but it's the stunning title track where everything comes together. Back in the 1970s, "Close to Home" would have been classified "hard country" to distinguish it from the Olivia Newton-John and John Denver songs that were storming the country charts, and annoying George Jones and Tammy Wynette. "Close to Home" feels like the best serious country song to have come down the pike in years and years, maybe decades. You know how Michelangelo (the artist, not the Ninja Turtle) claimed that the sculpture was already in the marble and he just had to chip away until he uncovered it? "Close to Home" feels like that. "Close to Home" has always existed, the perfect country song. George Jones would have knocked "Close to Home" out of the park, but even No-Show Jones might not have topped Mead's vocal, as he laments, "You know that song / Where it all goes wrong / Hits a little close to home." Of course, it does. It was the job of Chuck Mead and cowriters Jon Tiven and Sally Tiven to unearth "Close to Home", and they did so, gloriously. Wow.

Mead closes Close to Home with "There's Love Where I Come From", a gentle plea for love and tolerance served up in a decidedly non-preachy gospel-tinged pop song. Mead is utterly convincing when he sings, "There's love where I come from / Won't you come and get you some?" Chuck Mead, producer Matt Ross Spang, and all of participating musicians have poured tons of love into the creation of Close to Home, and you can feel that love in every song.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.