Hailing from Houston, now based near Austin and possessed with the sort of falsetto Texan twang you can only be born with, Herring, a significant voice in the area's LGBT community, is one of the nominees for Best Female Outlaw Artist of this year's Ameripolitan Awards (coincidentally, ex-pat Birmingham born backing singer Sophia Johnson is nominated in the Female Western Swing category), which, if you're not familiar with her previous three albums, should give you a good idea of what she's musically about.
Further pointers can be found in the titles of two of the songs, the self-penned 'The Last of the Honky Tonk Heroes' and a cover of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen's 'Semi-Truck' from their 1972 Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers album, the former in the mould of classic Tammy and Loretta, a tribute not so much to a person as a musical genre and is one of several highlights here, the latter kicking up the Western Swing dust.
The title track kicks it all off, a wistful reflection on a might have been relationship now divided by distances between coated in pedal-steel courtesy of legendary guitarist Steve Fishell, who also serves as producer. Given the similar references about living in different towns, taken at an uptempo pace with a hint of Springsteen about the melody, 'Yellow Mailbox', another broken relationship number, perhaps concerning the same lost love.
Indeed, sadness and loss permeate the record. It's at the heart of 'Midnight', a number written by Boudleaux Bryant and Chet Atkins and first recorded in 1952 by Red Foley, Herring's version hewing closely to its arrangement with the lazy roll and smoky blues cell piano groove, and strikingly so in 'Right Behind Her', Floyd Domino on keys and Fishell on steel for a prescient song written in 2015 about her fears of not being able to cope in the event of her mother's death, a passing that poignantly happened almost exactly a year later.
If it's not actual loss, it's love's betrayals and bruisings. She does, however, approach these in a more playful manner, the account of wounding words and cool heart in 'Balmorhea' set to a gypsy jazz backdrop and darker toned vocals that border on yodelling while there's beer and bourbon puns frothing over in the chorus of honky tonk romp about being lied to 'All The Millers In Milwaukee', a number written and featuring shared vocals by Mary Cutrufello that comes with a sly George Jones reference.
It's not all so downbeat though. Written purposely to feature Fishell's jazzy Weissenborn guitar licks, riding a brushed drums shuffle 'Best Thing I've Seen Yet' bursts with love found while the Patsy-like torch waltzing album closer, 'Getting By', an openly autobiographical number about only being responsible for herself and working a day job as a car mechanic to pay the rent that swells the heart as she sings in self-affirmation, "I take pride in what I am." And, as this album amply demonstrates, so she should.
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