by Carter Delloro
The theme of “the West” is all over the Lonesome Heroes’ latest LP, Can’t Stand Still– “That Western wind’s got my tongue again,” “I need a Western-facing highway and a town to start over again,” “I close my eyes and we’re drifting West.” Given that lead singer Rich Russell is from New York and his music sounds like a steady car driving along I-10 towards El Paso, it’s fair to assume that the West that inspires Russell and keeps him always moving forward is the West which begins in Austin. It’s safe to say that Russell has found his spiritual home in the Texas plains. But it’s funny how music’s meaning is always relative.
I recently left Austin and moved West. I moved all the way out to California, where you can’t get much further West without running up against a pretty large roadblock. Whereas Russell’s music sees the West as a place of possibility, I hear in Russell’s music my own past. I can’t help but look East when I listen to the Lonesome Heroes. I instinctively hear Austin in the shuffling drums and the ringing pedal steel guitar, and I think about the past instead of the future.
It’s hard, living in Austin, to remember that country music isn’t as pervasive on the coasts. And living on the coasts, you don’t think about country music as much because you just don’t hear it. So when I listen to Can’t Stand Still, I’m automatically transported back to Hill Country biker bars and East 6th dives.
The Lonesome Heroes are a good fit for a homesick Texan. Sure, there’s some blatant old-school country songs like the two-step of “Shit Happens” or the blues in “Western Style Saloons.” But more often, the tracks on Can’t Stand Still are like countrified rock. “Whole Heart” reminds me of Wildflowers-era Tom Petty. “Steel” has the harsh drive of an East Cameron Folkcore track. A lot of the record reminds me of a chilled out mid-tempo version of a song by the now-defunct Whitman. This is a friendly country record for a rocker like me.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is the first Lonesome Heroes recording without Landry McMeans, who parted ways a couple of years ago with Russell in both a personal and professional sense. For those of us who knew the sound of the Lonesome Heroes with her harmony, the loss is felt. But if we’re being honest, most of you reading this probably didn’t know the Lonesome Heroes then, and if this is your first exposure to them, it’s still a damn fine record. The most overt lyrical nod to their dissolution is “Long Time Coming,” which suggests their parting was probably to their mutual benefit.
In light of that, it’s probably understandable why Russell is so focused on the future on Can’t Stand Still, and after a few spins, it’s easy to get caught up with him. He makes it clear that “the West” isn’t a physical place so much as a state of mind, and once you’ve known it, it’s always there for you when you need it. Because there’s still a long road ahead.
Carter Delloro lived in North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut, the DC metro area, and California before finally arriving in Austin, Texas on August 10, 2010. He has been a music junkie his whole life, growing up with radio parents whose record collection allowed him access to nearly every conceivable musician even before the Napster Revolution. Carter is a singer and guitarist who has dabbled with the bass, but his true passion is talking about, writing about, debating and analyzing music. His favorite local band changes every week, but his favorite artists of all-time will always be Talking Heads and Bruce Springsteen. He also enjoys college basketball, crossword puzzles and dogs.