Lightning Rod Records
Out of misery and heartache comes great art. That seems to be one of the great recurring themes of all the artistic mediums. On his new solo album, Paul Cauthen has clearly lived and by the sound of it, learned from a particularly low period in his life when he was living in Dallas’ Belmont Hotel and treating his anxiety and heartbreak with drugs and alcohol. Thankfully there was enough commitment to his music through the dark times and we’ve got this wonderful document as a result.
Cauthen is a country artist but like all the great outlaws he’s tearing at the fabric of expectations and pigeon-holing. He’s a blend of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Jim Ford and Barry White. They flirt with the 70s dance floor as much as they live in liquor stores and late night bars. There’s a rich funk and soul foundation to the album, styles that lend themselves to the cathartic and emotional aspect of Cauthen’s songs and delivery. ‘Holy Ghost Fire’ and ‘Cocaine Country Dancing’ lay his demons on the table right from the outset while elsewhere he gets more intimate, revealing his fears on the gothic ballads ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Lay Me Down’. ‘Freak’ goes the furthest out with its foray into heavy humid funk in the vein of Parliament and Prince.
If dark and dramatic is your thing then this record should be sitting in your collection alongside another recent release in Orville Peck’s Pony. Room 41 is certainly taking country in a new and intriguing direction, a welcome counterpoint to the shallow cliches of the current trend of chart-topping country music.