Western Centuries’ three central songwriters all hail from big cities. Ethan Lawton and Cahalen Morrison reside on Seattle’s South End. Across the flyover states that inform a lot of great country music, former Donna the Buffalo member Jim Miller hangs his hat in New York City.
City slickers face criticism sometimes for entering the country and folk music fray, with even Appalachian revivalist Gillian Welch’s authenticity taken to task. Western Centuries avoid these trappings by placing their city credentials at the forefront, replacing images of sprawling countrysides and rugged terrains with less glamorous tales of crowded urban spaces.
Take new single “Own Private Honky Tonk” for instance. Lawton wrote a story about a lonely city-dweller, uninterested in dancing his blues away out among the nightlife. Instead, he’d rather just listen to country music and oldies at home. Nothing can sully his one-person party, aside from the upstairs neighbor’s bi-weekly noise complaints. Hopefully, it gives frustrated rural youngsters some perspective on how depression can run rampant in even the most happening cities.
“‘Own Private Honky Tonk’ is basically a song about a lonely guy who hates his job, has no money, no friends, drinks too much and prefers to stay home, listen to records and drink by himself rather than go to some fancy night club,” Lawton says. “I can relate. ”
Musically, Western Centuries avoid limiting themselves to either a mainstream or retro country sound. For example, their latest twangy tale’s piano accompaniment is more Fats Domino than Floyd Cramer. Such variety creates a pastiche of sounds a more social narrator might hear around town.
“Own Private Honky Tonk” previews the band’s forthcoming album Songs from the Deluge, out April 6 via Free Dirt Records.