Album Review – Deep In The Heart: Big Songs For Little Texans Share
Deep In The Heart – Big Songs for Little Texans (Bismeaux Records)
Well, the timing is right … most of the folks throwing up on their dates at Pat Green concerts ten or twelve years ago are at about the right age to be raising toddlers at this point (myself included, even though little Luke isn’t quite toddling yet). This might be our last chance for a decade or two to find something that we and our small children will enjoy listening to together, so fortunately Big Songs for Little Texans splits the difference nicely between kid-friendly charm and rootsy, dad-friendly country music.
There’s no shortage of star power, at least regionally speaking, and to the artists’ credit nobody seems to stoop to cynically phoning it in. The Randy Rogers Band’s take on “Mister Sun” shuffles along sweetly, with a touch of Lyle Lovett-ish jazz not normally seen in their repertoire but warmly well-suited to Brady Black’s fiddle. In fact, most of the musicians involved did a fine job of finding simple, often public-domain tunes that fit their established personalities to a “T”: Cory Morrow’s engaging take on “This Little Light Of Mine” fits with the spiritual bent of his more recent material, Jason Boland’s hearty “This Land Is Your Land” reflects well on both the populist vibe of his music and his Oklahoma roots (via the legendary Woody Guthrie), and Stoney LaRue’s take on “Oh Susannah” is another worthy entry in the semi-long line of folk music covers he’s used to bridge the gap between records. Reckless Kelly’s “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad,” Jack Ingram’s “You Are My Sunshine,” Asleep at the Wheel’s “Riding In The Car” and Josh Abbott’s “She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain” would likely fit right in on one of their respective albums if you could somehow memory-wipe the fact that you’ve literally heard those songs since you were born.
The lesser-knowns of the bunch deliver nicely too, with veteran Honeybrowne rocker Fred Andrews and Jess Klein turning in an appropriately bright and bouncy take on “Keep On The Sunny Side” and the underrated pipes of Charla Corn enlivening a sweet, sincere vocal-and-piano “Rainbow Connection.” Some of the songs get a bit cluttered, with the likes of an all-star version of “Deep In The Heart of Texas” and a wildly bouncy duet called “Don’t You Just Know It?” by Ray Benson and Bonnie Bishop seeming pitched to the most ADD-afflicted kids (and inner children) among us. Also, not bringing the Trishas aboard to sing some sort of folkie lullaby seems like a missed opportunity …
Still, it’s a lively, good-natured, even occasionally moving romp of a project, with much credit due to Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Records for not only the concept but the execution. Hearing Pat Green sing the version of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” pitched squarely at the toddlers (similar to the old Tex Ritter record, not the hobo-friendly version from O Brother Where Art Thou) is in its own way reminiscent of his old beer-drinkin’, river-floatin’ anthems of late-‘90s fame. It’s singing songs to people about things they love, live, and desire in a way they relate to. This time around, the people just got a little smaller.
- Mike Ethan Messick