(Written by a Guest Writer!)
I was watching an interview with AD Rock from the Beastie Boys with Sway the other day. Sway was asking him about whether or not he thinks young rappers should know about the Beastie Boys. AD Rock instantly replied no. He reasoned that rap has been able to become such a powerful cultural force precisely because rappers live in the now and are therefore able to create music that responds more dynamically and accurately to the context of the world than any other genre. He argued that because of this attention to the now rap been able to uniquely tap into a pulse of the present and change with wherever now goes.
For the past 2 years I’ve been listening to a lot less rap and a lot more country and folk music. I couldn’t figure out what had changed where all of a sudden this is the music I couldn’t put down. I moved to Montana a year ago, which probably has something to do with it. Also been reading a lot of Gary Snyder, so there’s that.
But there was something else that I couldn’t put my finger on, until I heard the new Doug Paisley record. After sitting down with his record one night I realized that his music, and I think country music more broadly, abides by this same unwavering focus on the now and themes of change that AD Rock was talking about, albeit lyrically. There’s a Zen-like foundation to this presence that both genres share.
On Starter Home, Doug Paisley is drenching in the now. The constant of change, the unknowingness of the world, the acknowledgement of life and death, it’s all there in spades on this record. Starter Home feels like a full-fledged acceptance of these truths and a story of trying to find peace on the other side of handing over control. It feels like what living feels like which is what makes it so fucking good.
It’s a folk record at heart but he draws a bit from everywhere. Parts of it sound Dylan-y, other parts sound Guy Clark-y, and at one point I got some serious Jimmy Buffet vibes (there’s only one part you’ll hear it). His lyrics seem innocuous but rarely are; sometimes it can be easy to miss the gut punch of them because he makes them sound soothing. Combined with his effortless guitar playing, reassuring voice, and considered instrumentation, he constructs an incredible contrast between “This song sounds uplifting!” and “Oh my god the fucking truth of these lyrics is pretty real I need a second” a lot like the realities of life he talks about.
This record is a surefire heartbreaker if you’re a person with any feelings in there. Stories of homes and the ebb and flow of relationships and lives in them. Unfulfilled loves and letting go. Drinking with friends and reminiscing. Rivers in spring. But it’s heartwarming in the same regard; the cold comfort of these truths and the recognition that these are what make life worth it.