James Jackson Toth is one of the brave souls to be a singer-songwriter in this day and age, a time when bands are getting louder, vocals are obscured by walls of sound and good ol’ country is misjudged due to preconceptions. Toth’s brand of “American weird” is basically just good folk music. His latest release, Farmer’s Corner, is a solid tribute to Americana.
The album starts off with “Alpha Dog,” a more traditional country track. It’s almost AM Gold in nature, with its pop leanings and simple melodies. “Uneasy Pace” and “When the Trail Goes Cold” are dusty, road trip songs. “When the Trail Goes Cold” is a little more psych-pop – the type of tune that follows you out of the car and into the desert. From there, you can ride the snake and what have you.
“Dambuilding” is a narrative, most likely about… well, dambuilding. Sometimes, kids, you just have to stop a river from flowing. Toth sings about plugging up cracks and appreciating the structure he built. Possibly the river was made of tears and he built the dam out of some pretty good country songs. We can go with that.
The album ends with “Gone To Stay”– a true album-ender– the kind of song with which you close a show. It’s easy to sing along with a whiskey in one hand and your other wrapped around your best friend. The instrumentation of banjo and acoustic guitar doesn’t need to be broken down. It’s a country ballad, the kind you’d have loved to hear Ray Charles take a stab at.
Farmer’s Corner isn’t necessarily an exciting album or even one you can wind down to. It’s simply a collection of songs you listen to for the sake of hearing what singer-songwriter has to say. Toth does that both eloquently and with a hint of magic.