Flatland Cavalry stand in the long tradition of Texas country music. Like many Texas country acts, the fiddle plays a prominent part in the sound of this band. At the same time, Cleto Cordero’s vocals bring to mind bands like the Backsliders. The band’s previous recordings like Homeland Insecurity brought them enough success to tour with Luke Combs. That was a stroke of good fortune, not just for the fact that they had the opportunity to play in front of huge crowds in that opening slot.
Combs, along with Dan Isbell and Jonathan Singleton, had written a song about Texas cowboys that he couldn’t see himself recording because he doesn’t fit that role. That song appears on the new album Welcome to Countryland. Of the song, Cordero said, “Well, we don’t consider ourselves cowboys either… but we as Texans who appreciate the archetypal cowboy, loved the message and spirit of the song—getting through a disheartening situation with gusto, suave and by getting back on the proverbial horse.”
There has long been a debate among fans about what is and what is not country. Some folks will say that real country music was only that music made before a certain time. On the opening track of the album, Flatland Cavalry address this issue beautifully. Over a melody that features banjo, pedal steel, and accordion, Cleto Cordero sings, “I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m a honky tonker, but I’ve been known to haunt a hall or two.” On top of that, the rhythm would make Waylon Jennings proud. In the chorus, he sings, “Country is what country means to you.” And if this song doesn’t fit your definition of country, the problem likely isn’t with the band.
“A Cowboy Knows How” is the song co-written by Luke Combs. The melody is made for country radio stations, and the lyrics are designed for singing along. It takes a special talent to write a song that people can sing along with on the first listen. With the lyrics, “Might as well find me a sunset and ride off in it, find me a ghost town and disappear in it”, this is one that you can sing along with the second time you hear the chorus.
The more you hear of this album, the more you realize Cordero’s talent for telling a story. “Getting By” is a great example. The melody is akin to Old Crow Medicine Show, while the lyrics tell the story of an everyman who takes pleasure in simple things like cooking out on a Friday night after a long week of work. More than a song, it is an anthem for everyone who is just scraping by but remains content. “Daydreamer” is another song that could be an anthem. The melody is uptempo enough to get people moving around a dance floor. Cordero sings about having his head in the clouds and poses the question, “Don’t you want to be a daydreamer like me?” You can’t help but answer with gusto that yes, you would like to be a daydreamer too.
Welcome to Countryland by Flatland Cavalry is a showcase of country songwriting. This band can write songs that will get you dancing and singing along with every word. And yes, that includes if you’re only playing the songs on a jukebox instead of seeing the band live.