"Honky Tonk Land" by James Carothers

James Carothers
Honky Tonk Land
self-released

3½ stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

Have you heard of Junior Brown? James Carothers? You’ll probably answer yes to Brown and “Who?” to Carothers. You need to change that.

Like Brown, Carothers’ take on country music is just off-center enough to make it really interesting.

These new country singers

They all sing about drinkin’

How it makes ’em have fun

But it got me to thinkin’

Something was missing, to me it was puzzling

It only gets better from there in “New Country Singers.” Carothers wrote the songs (except for one track composed by his father, Jim), does the singing and plays guitar. He’s backed by a group of very good session musicians including Eddie Bayers (drums), J. T. Corenflos (guitar), Scotty Sanders (steel guitar) and Gordon Mote, well known for his appearances with Bill Gaither and other gospel groups, on piano, as well as several other musicians.

While this is unapologetic honky-tonk music—loud, driving, often irreverent and sharp-witted—Carothers shows a softer side with “Where Did We Come From,” a song of memories of a kind of childhood that seems to have faded away.

Now the family and farm and pastures gone

But we got our SUVs

And we eat from a chain’s trough

And buy stuff made overseas

Well things ain’t quite what they used to be

I grew up in the country. I can’t argue with that.

He even includes a mystery song. Love, jealousy and…

35 years ago she was a looker and quite the magnolia prize

Had every feller ‘tween Yazoo and Tupelo

Talkin ’bout her big brown eyes

You ain’t ever felt another daughter of the delta

That’ll make you do anything

And it’s been a lot of years since she went and disappeared

Underneath the Mississippi clay

(tag)

There’s a tin roof and some broke down cars

Covered in kudzu vine

Have you ever driven through rural Mississippi? This captures the feel of the countryside, sets the scene. Do I like his lyrics? You bet I do. The only downside is there are only seven tracks.

His drawling voice and his lyrics are not champagne music, but they don’t serve much of that in honky-tonks. If you like the music of Brown, Jennings, Haggard, Cash and a long list of like singers, you need to find a copy of this CD and spend some quality time with a dose of country.