“It looked like an old red lunchbox,” says Randall King. “It’d open up on both sides and had all these slots for cassettes. He always had it filled with classic country gold.”
King’s talking about father’s old cassette collection. The elder King was a hay-hauling truck driver, who’d often take his young son out on the road in his ’80s Freightliner for a week at a time. The cab of his father’s truck and that old cassette collection, which ranged from classic standards like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Lefty Frizzell to neo-traditional risers like George Strait, Alan Jackson and Keith Whitley, was very much a country classroom for King. Sitting shotgun and singing along to the greats of the day was paramount for King.
Fast-forward 20 years and King’s self-titled full-length debut (due out April 27) would fit in nicely amongst his father’s old cassettes. The slow-burning heartbreaker “Mirror Mirror” shows King’s cut from the same old cloth as some of his honky-tonk heroes and country balladeers. Built around the classic country mirror metaphor, “Mirror Mirror” warbles and wails like an old dusty jukebox standard. It’s a sad and lonesome dance that sways just right with King’s powerful country croon. There’s a touch of melancholy weaved in that makes King’s delivery that much more believable and heartwrenching.
Like Frizzell’s “I Never Go Around Mirrors,” King’s “Mirror Mirror” hurts so good. It’s a bruise you push in with your finger just to feel the pressure release when you let up. You almost don’t mind the heartbreak when King’s the bearer of bad news.
The high and lonesome ballad came to fruition at a Lubbock songwriter retreat two years ago.
“Brandon Adams had come up to me at the campfire,” recalls King. “He said he had this song with me in mind. He sang that very first line and I was just like ‘Yes, that’s the one.'”
The two paired off and went for a quiet spot to write while the majority of their contemporaries went inside the bar on site. Sitting on the back of King’s tailgate, “Mirror Mirror” began being pieced together. “It wasn’t like we were in a private room or anything,” says King. “So when Dalton Domino walked outside for a smoke, he walked on over when he saw us. He ended up throwing a couple lines in a verse that just fit perfectly.” Later that night, King wowed his songwriting buddies with an intimate acoustic sketch of the song.
King, is in all senses of the term, a neo-traditional revivalist. Much like Another Bullet, Randall King finds the country crooner pressing forward into new territory by continually resurrecting the sounds of the past. It’s filled to the brim with familiar tones and subject that remind you of country’s traditional past.
King produced the new 13-track album himself. There’s a refined polish on much of the album while maintaining an authentic grit and atmosphere. There’s a charming swagger to King’s writing style that shines through with playful hooks and fast-paced dancehall ramblers. Still, King reminds you of his hardened work ethic and humility, traits he credits to his hard-working family, throughout.
“Ain’t nobody done more for me in my life than him,” says King about his father. “Except for Momma. She’s done a lot too.”