As the home of artists like Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, James McMurtry, Joe Pug and Billy Joe Shaver, Lightning Rod Records has developed into one of my favorite labels in recent years. You can add talented Texas native Ryan Culwell to the stable of first-rate Lightning Rod artists.
“Listening to my music is like watching ‘No Country for Old Men,”” Culwell explains. “All the emptiness and violence will either scare you away or you’ll find yourself alone at 3 a.m. with it on repeat.”
“Flatlands” is Culwell’s long-awaited follow up to his 2006 “Heroes on the Radio” debut. It took so long because he walked away from music after the first record to focus on his family.
“When my daughters are grown they deserve a story that doesn’t include the woes of West Texas bars or a recounting of daddy’s touring history to explain why he left their mom,” he reasons. “I left the scene so those stories wouldn’t write themselves over the top of me, and it was worth it.”
Almost a decade later, Culwell is back in the game and “Flatlands” marks a welcome return. The 12-track Americana release is filled with songs about Culwell’s Dust Bowl roots and is dedicated to his brother and father. There isn’t a bad song in the bunch, but pay extra attention to standouts “Amarillo,” the title track, “I Will Come for You,” personal favorite “Piss Down in My Bones” and “Horses.” Good stuff. (Jeffrey Sisk)