Midland’s ‘Let It Roll': 5 Wonderfully Retro Songs
Midland double down on their classic, West Coast and Texas country-inspired sound on their sophomore album, Let It Roll. After all, why mess with a good thing?
In that same spirit, producers Dann Huff, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne return for the country trio’s second project as well. McAnally and Osborne — the songwriting dream team that helped craft much of Midland’s debut disc, 2017’s On the Rocks — get numerous cuts on Let It Roll, but Mando Saenz, Liz Rose, Jon Nite and a few others earn credits as well.
Its the melodies, though, that especially help Midland — Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy and Mark Wystrach — send listeners back in time. To that end, the band and their producers assembled a veritable orchestra of timeless and retro instruments: numerous acoustic and electric guitars, slide and steel guitars, a bouzouki, a mandolin, a sitar … and those are just the stringed instruments!
There’s also accordion, saxophone and multiple organs and pianos, plus a couple different synthesizers, because why stop at one? It might sound overwhelming on paper, but coming out of your speakers, it’s not. In Huff’s hands, those dozens of sounds always find their perfect place.
Let It Roll, out Friday (Aug. 23), features 14 songs. Wystrach, as is customary, takes the lead on 12 of them, but Carson and Duddy each get a turn at the front mic as well. Love songs, cheating songs and drinking songs — and a trucking song, for good measure — commingle on the project, but these five are our early favorites.
“Fourteen Gears,” written by Carson, Wystrach and David Garza is an internet-era entry into 1970s’ (and beyond) cannon of country trucker songs. It’s a little bit “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” and a little bit “East Bound and Down” minus the bootlegging.
“Hear the Peterbilt whine / Down the solid white line / Don’t make no money if I don’t make it there on time / Houston, Dallas, San Antone / Wind it up until I’m home / I’ve got 14 gears to get you back in my arms,” Wystrach sings in the chorus. His bandmates’ pitch-perfect “ooooh” harmonies add a breezy feel, and we can almost see the miles rolling away in our rearview mirror.
This Dwight Yoakam-esque, honky-tonk-ready tune was written by Shane McAnally and frequent co-conspirator Josh Osborne with all three Midland bandmates. We’re not ones to commend taking advantage of the heartbroken, but the titular Mr. Lonely (played by Dennis Quaid) does get his comeuppance in the song’s music video. Long live the blues!
“Cheatin’ Songs” is another McAnally / Osborne / Midland jam, but its the slinky, grooving melody that really sells this one. A Solina synthesizer (courtesy of Dann Huff) and Wurlitzer and B-3 organs (played by Robbie Crowell and Charlie Judge, respectively) fill out the track, while Huff on 12-string guitar and mandolin and Paul Franklin on steel guitar add country flourishes.
“Every Song’s a Drinkin’ Song”
Midland and co-writers Liz Rose and Jeremy Spillman clearly had some fun with this one. We can just picture the writing session:
“Hey, ‘Cash’ rhymes perfectly with ‘trashed’!”
“What rhymes with ‘Cline’?” “‘More wine’!”
Also name-dropped: Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam — but we won’t ruin those rhymes for you. Robbie Crowell’s steady drumbeat and barroom piano set the tone, while former Sturgill Simpson guitarist Laur Joamets’ acoustic slide guitar drives it home.
“Cheatin’ By the Rules”
“We both got somebody / We lost the fire for / That ain’t no reason to treat ‘em cruel,” Wystrach sings in the chorus of “Cheatin’ By the Rules.” Well … at least the two parties involved in this song’s affair are considerate?
Midland wrote this song with Rhett Akins and Bob DiPiero. Robbie Crowell’s back again on piano, opening the track with assistance from Dave Cohen on accordion. The cheaters’ playbook has never sounded so good.