16 years since his debut album, 2001’s Because She Love Me, Brandon Rhyder has wracked up an impressive touring and recording career in the Texas circuit. He’s embraced his roots and the ethos of red dirt, while keeping time with genre-pushing and progressive textures to his work. His new self-titled album (out now) sees the troubadour color poetic about living free and easy, the delicate balance of marriage and finding his faith again. His sketches draw upon life’s most intimate and crucial moments, affirming his resolve to cherish each and every second. “The way the light is embellishing you is magnificent and amazing. Tonight is our last night on the island,” he swoons on “Let’s Blow Off Monday,” a breezy, island-centric downtempo on sweltering summer romance. Later, on “Good Morning Sunrise,” he waxes sweet and gentle, cooing, “You’re shining your light, like I knew that you would. Last night was so beautiful it made you cry, and I held you tight.”
Rhyder’s conviction is drenched in simplicity and drives home some uplifting but complex truths. Bookending the 10-track set is the Bri Bagwell-featuring “C’Mon Baby Hold On,” a rather hearty tale of wading the muck of “hell or high water.” “Everybody runs through a rough patch ever now and again. When the whole world is on your back and it feels like it’s all caving in ⎯ when the end of your rope is way too close for comfort, I promise you, the darkness is gonna end,” he nudges on the opening line, as he lets go and lets God. Later, he remains delicate and envelopes you in warmth and comforting empathy. “Everybody needs a helping hand or two on this journey. I want you to know it’s okay to reach out for me when you’re hurting,” he assures.
That sentiment plays out in much of the record, from the sweeping wail of “Evergreen,” which opens the LP, and the empowering “They Need Each Other,” with accomplished singer and songwriter Lori McKenna on harmony, to the crisp “Shake” and the steely-eyed “I Hate This Town.” He never wavers in his intent or delivery, and you get the sense he has reached an apex of his creative career: the themes carry enough weight of the world’s problems to be universal but never abdicate vulnerability and astute caring in the process. It’s a painstaking price to pay, but he’s willing to wage his pounds of flesh.
B-Sides & Badlands had the chance to snag the exclusive breakdown of the album, start to finish. Get the track-by-track commentary below.
I was in Red River, New Mexico playing the LJT festival that happens in August there every year. I had the afternoon off and went up the mountain to watch Michael Hearne play, and he played this song “Evergreen.” I had the perfect seat, a banquet beer and the mountain sun on my face. It was a great performance top to bottom. Truth is, I didn’t want it to end. I met Michael after the show and he gave me his latest record “Life in America,” and I listened to it on repeat travelling back home. I had mentioned to Michael several times that I wanted to record it, and so when it came time to go back in the studio, I wanted to make sure it was included. Listen to the words. It’s just beautiful poetry. Stuck out on this limb, dancing with the wind, how I long to be, evergreen.
“They Need Each Other” featuring Lori McKenna
I had the honor and privilege of writing with Lori at her home in Boston. Not only did we write a couple of songs on this effort, but she also joins me with her trademark vocals on this track. When I arrived, we were throwing around ideas, and I told her this story about my wife. One day, I arrived home, and I couldn’t find her in the house so I hollered her name, and I could tell she was back in the kids’ rooms. I rounded the corner, and there she was up under the sink working to unclog the drain. She had told me about the sink slowly draining, but I hadn’t gotten to the honey-do list soon enough. She took matters into her own hands and did the job. I know I should have felt bad for not getting the job done, but I was more proud that she was willing to tackle something she knew little about. To me, it’s a song about being a team, commitment, and sharing life with one another. “She don’t need him to fix the sink, she can do it herself, the tools are out in the shed and she don’t need his help.”
This song. When I first heard it, I was just blown away by the power of the words and the power of the voices. It just gives so much that there is no room for questioning the intent or truths. There are plans that have been made, but also commitments that are honored.
“Let’s Blow Off Monday”
Perfect Caribbean destination vacation that always comes to an end too soon. Great weather, dreamy sunsets, and a pretty woman. Romantic dinners and walks on the beach. Hands locked and love made. A love song about reflection and memories made. A song about wanting and needing more time to enjoy each other.
“No Time For That”
One of my very favorite tracks on this collection of tunes. This song is about not allowing someone to continue to take advantage of you, your heart and your time. That there comes a time when it’s not worth it anymore. That there’s that one day you wake up and are done.
“The Huntin’ Song”
I grew up hunting and fishing. As I have aged, I seem to enjoy it more now than ever before. I enjoy reliving the memories and trips and harvest taken. I like to think about just being a kid, with a pellet gun, running through the forest. I like to connect with God, and when I am lucky enough to get some time in His great big backyard, I feel closer to Him. I like to pass down the traditions to my kids. This story is full circle and straight from the heart.
“I Hate This Town”
I wrote this song with Keith Gattis. I have always been a big fan of his and recorded a song of his called “California” on Conviction better than ten years ago. One of the coolest guys I know. That day we met down on Music Row and then drove over to his house. We sat on the back porch, drank a couple of beers, and wrote this song in just a couple of hours. A country song about partying in every city he comes to, but always remembering she’s gone when he’s coming back down.
“Half the Time I’m Crazy”
The second song I wrote with Lori on this collection of tunes. The story came from me telling Lori that my wife says half the time I’m crazy, and I take that as a compliment. Why a compliment? Because I feel way crazier than that most of the time!
“Good Morning Sunrise”
I wrote this song with the great Michael Hearne. I just love the rhythm and how beautiful the words are. The song is bright and shiny and happy. Quite frankly, it just makes me feel good inside. Take this time to rediscover and let love flow. Good morning sunrise, I slept so good. You’re shining your light, like I knew that you would.
“C’mon Baby Hold On” featuring Bri Bagwell
[Brit and I] wrote the tune at my house a couple of years back. Bri is a great singer/songwriter, and I truly love her vocal cuts. The song is about being there for your significant other, about picking up the slack on a bad day. It’s about never giving up.
Spin the album below:
Photo credit: Carmeron Gott