If there’s one that sure as the sun is going to rise, it’s that there is a young West Texas troubadour that is determined to lay his mark on country music. Years in the making, his latest album represents the culmination of his entry into a young man, finding love, and the ever supportive friendship of artists like Aaron Watson, Randall King, and Jake Worthington. It’s a strong step toward finding his own sound and carving out his space in Texas country and no doubt many will learn his name in the coming years. Refusing to settle for what others want, Hunter Hutchinson has released Keep Rollin’ On, an album that firmly establishes his brand of country music.
Having talked to Aaron Watson in person the other night, he could not say enough nice things when asked about Hunter - and with good reason. All it takes is one look to see that his peers hold him in a high regard and appreciate his easy going country boy attitude. It’s a persona that I pick up right away from listening to his music. He tends to refrain from bringing things down and making people cry, but rather has an even-keeled approach that touches on the sentimental aspects of life. Hutchinson’s youth plays a role in this latest album as a whole, reflecting on his time back in college and finding love with his fiance. It’s presented without feeling cheap and all the while you can’t help but smile when you hear him sing because you know it’s real.
Attending college is one of the most memorable times for many because of the lax responsibilities and lifetime friendships that we make. While often taken for granted in the moment, college years are looked back with a sense of yearning and fondness that never cease to exist. We forget about about all the tiresome hours in the library and only remember all the feel-good memories. You know, the countless times that same professor dumped that 15 page paper on you last minute. Or maybe you procrastinated?
Best Days of My Life encompasses all of these intangibles but also one of the most important parts of life: love. It was at Texas Tech that Hunter met his fiance, as many have gone on to do. Changing tastes and views of the world run rampant during the college years, but some get lucky enough to find someone that fits right into place alongside them.
While just touching on his special lady in the latter song, Hunter rolls out the upbeat love song Love Like Ours that will make you grab a Q-tip or two to make sure that isn’t Jon Wolfe coming through your headphones. The similarity in voice between these two honky tonkers is something else. Only helping here is the way it appears to share a similar melody to Wolfe’s Smile on Mine. Maybe it’s just the fact that I know Hunter is engaged, but I found this song to be one of those light-hearted songs you know he would love to sing to his girl from the stage. Critics be damned: you have to remember we are people that like to feel instead of being serious 100% of the time. It makes for a lively track that I just know the girls in the front row this it’s about them every time he sings it at a show…
Presenting itself as a standout tune of fond reminiscence, is Grandpa’s Saddle; a moment for Hunter to perform a song written by both he and James Rosenbaum. A little digging into this track revealed that Rosenbaum had began to put some lyrics together about his grandpa - a figure that so many of us look up to and admire their wisdom. Let’s face it, your grandparents are not only some of the coolest people you’ll meet, but also incredible resources and gatekeepers to learning. The times of sitting there and just listening, blocking everything else out in the world, in hopes of just grasping a small portion of all the life lessons and stories. This track is presented to be so incredibly thoughtful and not the least bit cheesy, that both Hutchinson and Rosenbaum should be so proud of their efforts.
One also can’t overlook the smash hit by David Lee Murphy, Good One Comin’ On. Man how I love this song and being a big fan of southern rock torchbearers Blackberry Smoke, I had some high standards. With a twangier delivery, Hunter did a stand-up job and I was pleasantly surprised that he included it on this record.
There is truly not a bad song on Keep Rollin’ On, which makes for some serious amounts of spins of this bad boy. I have listened to it every day since it has come out due to how easy a listen it is. It’s a damn fine release that he sure should be proud of. There is a natural flow that seamlessly runs through the course of the album, making it feel less like a collection of songs and almost story like. From the title track anthem of staying on your own path, to the songs of good times, romance, and those we hold dear, Hunter captures it all in his honky tonk ways. Keep Rollin’ On managed to strike the perfect balance of being fun yet able to be meaningful at just the right time. In other words, a perfect country album for those that want to enjoy real honky tonk again.
Hands down one of my favorite albums this second half of 2017. A job well done.
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
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