By way of full disclosure, you should know some things. First, I’m not the regular music reviewer for Clutch. That would be Corey Shields. You can probably see the problem with his doing this particular review. Adding to the stickiness of the situation is the fact that I could never be called a musician, which means I am limited in my ability to talk about the technical aspects of music. But I am a fan of good music. So, in that way, it’s probably appropriate for me to write a review, in that most readers are in the same boat. I have found that many music reviewers who are also musicians tend to speak a language that other musicians understand but most average, garden variety fans may not. That will obviously not be a problem for me.
Another thing you should know is that I know and like Corey, so I am just saying from the outset that I am probably prejudiced. Okay, not probably. Definitely prejudiced. But the last thing you should know is that I’m a terminally honest person and if I didn’t like his newest album, Antioch Road, I would tell you that. I’d just feel bad about it.
The good news is that I didn’t dislike it. In fact, I really enjoyed it. As a testament to that, I played it nonstop for my students one day and wasn’t even tired of it. Corey’s voice is gritty and somewhat rough around the edges and I like that. But his songwriting is quite refined. As a writer and lover of words, I like that even more. One of the things that struck me as I listened to it for about the twentieth time in seven hours was that I could easily use it to teach imagery, figurative language, and how to create a powerful tone. Compact at seven tracks and a little over thirty minutes, it packs a powerful musical punch. While some songs reflect on the life of a travelling musician, others are just good old fashioned love songs. What they all have in common is that they are just good, well-written songs delivered with soul.
While it’s hard to pick favorites, there were three songs that had the biggest impact on me. All the tracks are terrific, but these hit me on a deeper emotional level, probably in that they appealed to the hopeless romantic in me.
“Rearview Mirror,” listed as “RVM” on the back of the CD cover, is probably my favorite song lyrically. It just has such a catchy hook to it that I could listen to it over and over. It evokes images of sitting on the hood of a car late into the night with the one you love, sharing a drink, and wishing you could just run away together, never to come back.
The fifth track, “Fallin,’” is just a straight up love song in the best sense of the term. The title says it all. It’s a soft, melodic statement of a man who is falling madly in love with the woman of his dreams. Knowing Corey and how crazy he is about his lovely wife just makes this song all the more real.
Rounding out the album is probably the song that’s the most raucous fun of the entire list. “Magnolias Bloom” seems very much like a modern version of (and you’ll pardon the English teacher coming out in me) the classic Andrew Marvell poem, “To His Coy Mistress,” which argues that life is short, so his girlfriend should stop playing hard to get. This song makes a similar plea by complaining that the object of his affection is taking so long that magnolia trees, which are apparently known for taking up to a decade to blossom, would bloom in less time than she’s taking to make up her mind. This is just a cool song lyrically and musically as well.
I could go on for quite a while discussing the merits of every single track because there is something to love about each. There is not a clinker in the bunch. Add to that Corey Shields’ earthy, relatable vocal presentation and the beautifully spare musical accompaniment, and you have an album that is well worth the low, low price. I predict that Antioch Road will go to the top of your playlist and stay there for quite some time.
Joe Stephens is a National Board Certified Teacher at Parkersburg High School. He was a 2005 recipient of the Milken National Educator Award. He has a bachelor’s degree from Glenville State College and a master’s from Walden University. His third novel, In the Shadow, is now available on Amazon.