Music

Hear Ryan Culwell's Poignant and Pensive 'The Last American'

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Singer-songwriter Ryan Culwell returns with The Last American, the follow-up to the brilliantly bleak and beautiful Flatlands. The Last American, his third full-length album and first on Missing Piece Records, finds the Texas Panhandle native delving further into the psyche of the lost American dream. A few weeks back, he shared the first track on the album, "Can You Hear Me," a rushing and piercing anthem built on waves of shimmering '80s guitar and the mounting tension of our times. Now, he's sharing "The Last American," the reserved and understated title cut.

"Think of my record, The Last American, as a letter to a loved one who is hurting," says Culwell in a press release. "I speak love, encouragement, direction, warnings and hope. This is how I speak to those I love most."

"The Last American" finds Culwell offering lines like "I got my old man's heart and a broke down Chevrolet" with a proud, yet melancholy delivery. It's pensive in nature. On one hand, it's the remnants of a fractured American dream. Still, it finds him holding on to what he has with a white-knuckle grip.

Culwell's "The Last American" feels like a lonely drive home after a hard day's work. You can taste the salt deposits of an afternoon's sweat. There's nothing quite like sweat equity. And still, you can't help but feel as though "The Last American" is capturing the shift of a changing world and describing a system broken by greed. One where that sweat earned doesn't pay out quite like it once did.

"The title track says the things a friend might say in a time of need," says Culwell. "[You have] to carefully pull the festering splinter from a swollen palm. If you love America, this song is for you."

Much like Flatlands, Culwell's 2015 breakthrough album, The Last American is filled with poignant portraits of ordinary Americans struggling to make it through their days. They echo their concerns, grief, resentment and hopefulness of hard-working Americans. Like Bruce Springsteen's The River or modern contemporaries such as Jason Isbell or American Aquarium, Culwell's plainspoken poetry reflects blue-collar tones. They're songs for those who feel like they ended up on the bad end of a raw deal.

Still, through the despondent gazes and anxiety, Culwell's The Last American is filled with resilience and hope--primarily in the form of songs and literal lullabies to his four daughters. It's here in the role of a father where Culwell shines brightest. It's in the moments where he's hugging his family close where he finds the most promise and an optimistic future.

"The patriotism that my father passed down didn't have anywhere to land because that America simply didn't exist," says Culwell. "I'm a father myself now, and I think part of the inspiration for these songs was to try and give my children the tools to love this country for what it is and what it can be, to provide them with an accurate picture of where they are and what it means to love and hope and have empathy."

Culwell recorded The Last American in Nashville with Ethan Ballinger (Lee Ann Womack, Aubrie Sellers), Megan McCormick (Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst) and longtime collaborator Neilson Hubbard (Caroline Spence, Sam Baker) at the producing helm. Over the course of a year, Ballinger, McCormick and Culwell recorded the album during off-hours at Zac Brown's Southern Ground Studio. With half the album done, they brought Hubbard into the fold and wrapped up production in a short burst of sessions at Hubbard's studio.

The Last American's official release date is August 24. Pre-order The Last American on iTunes here.

The Last American Track List

1. "Can You Hear Me"
2. "Dig A Hole"
3. "The Last American"
4. "Moon Hangs Down"
5. "Heaven Everywhere I Go"
6. "Fucked Up Too"
7. "Nobody Loves You"
8. "Dog's Ass"
9. "I Have A Dream"
10. "Tie My Pillow To A Tree"

'The Last American' Lyrics

I'm the last American on this earth
I'd like to quit this talking, back to work
You don't understand me, that's cause we are not the same
You may recognize me, but you don't know my name
I got my old man's heart and a broke down Chevrolet

I took this job cause we need the hands
I got mouths to feed and I'm a man
You can't have anything you want
this is the land of the free
I got everything I asked for the day I turned sixteen
I got my old man's heart and a broke down Chevrolet

Oh, you can't take it any longer
Oh, what don't kill you makes you jump into your car and drive away
If you ever wonder what makes some men stay
I got my old man's heart and a broke down Chevrolet

See, I was born on the edge of town
You wouldn't know it
There's a school there now
They tell them "you can be anything you want"
And I believe that's a fact
What you give away, you ain't ever getting back
I got my old man's heart and a broke down Chevrolet

I guess I walk the ticket like I always do
If I can figure out who to stick it to
You can keep asking your questions
If you think it's going to help
Do I believe in God?
Well, mister, you go straight to hell
I got my old man's heart and a broke down Chevrolet

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Hear Ryan Culwell's Poignant and Pensive 'The Last American'