Album Review: Charlie Worsham – Beginning of Things

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We live in interesting times, times where an outlaw like Margo Price shares the same CMA Fest roster as meteoric risers Old Dominion and neo-traditionalists like Midland and Jon Pardi jostle for top of the chart airplay position alongside Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. So-called Bro-Country (at its height when Charlie Worsham’s debut record Rubberband landed almost 4-years ago), has mellowed (pushed out by pop overtones) and made its home in the rockier end of the country continuum. Charlie Worsham takes this in his stride, his work displays a quality that is more akin to those who call Americana their home, yet, politely side-stepping the pigeon-holes (like the man himself), Beginning of Things (his sophomore album) is musically diverse, slipping between country, blues, soulful Americana and indie rock with beguiling ease. As eclectic as it is engaging, Beginning of Things continues the charm offensive that many UK fans rightly fell for when Worsham first appeared at the C2C festival in 2016. Maybe it’s because it’s been almost 4-years in the making, but I love that songs that have become old friends at his solo (often acoustic) live shows (“Lawn Chair Don’t Care”, “Southern by the Grace of God”, “I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”) take on new form as peacock-like they unfurl under studio production.

Worsham has yet to experience the mainstream success of a top ten hit (although his debut single “Could It Be” peaked at Number 13 on the Billboard Airplay Chart) and his own words hint at his struggle to put his stake in the commercial country landscape, “I had fallen out of love with music, and making this record put me back in love with it on a level I hadn’t felt since I was a teenager…Beginning of Things was a challenge in surrendering control and trusting my own talent. I’m confident that these songs and these recordings capture my musical geography and personal truth, and at the end of the day, I’m convinced that is the ultimate purpose of an artist — to speak one’s truth.” The resulting “truth” is a passionate and creative mix that places inherently country tracks like “Southern by the Grace of God” and “Old Times Sake” alongside the excellent indie rocker “Birthday Suit” and the trippy “Only Way to Fly”. Musical diversity is the order of the day on this record and it does take a few listens to “settle” but it’s worth the wait.

Opening with the bluesy “Please, People Please” Worsham sets out his stall singing, “It’s a hard one to swallow, but I’m done trying to follow the path…” Funky guitar licks and fuzzy lo-fi distortion give this track an energy that is distinctively Worsham. A more traditional country arrangement (co-written with Shane McAnally and long-time collaborator Luke Dick), on “Southern By The Grace of God” I’m convinced I can smell the magnolia blossom”. This is one of our “old friend” tracks that Worsham has been performing in his live shows, but look out for the layers of percussion and guitar that bring a new dimension to the versions we’ve heard previously. The same can be said for “Lawn Chair, Don’t Care” with that distinctive opener that stopped everyone in their tracks at C2C a couple of years ago. A lighthearted song co-written with Brent Cobb and Ryan Tyndall, the subject matter belies the skill of the songwriters. Well known for his musical ability, Worsham also displays his songwriting chops on ‘story” tracks such as ”Old Times Sake” and the title track “The Beginning of Things”. Inspired by a line in an episode of Mad Men, “Old Times Sake” woos with slices of silvery steel that should melt the hearts of those hardened by the last few years of country rock. Worsham says that this is the song he is most proud of writing. Gorgeously old-fashioned, although it’s probably not destined for single material, it’s likely to become a classic at live shows. Similarly, “The Beginning of Things” contains a storytelling quality that entices the listener to lean in and second guess where this tale will end – sadly as it goes, but that’s where the best country songs land.

Your copilot is your heart of gold,
Watch the world disappear below,
Come on baby, don’t you know,
Oh, that’s the only way to fly.

A leap of faith and go and launch yourself,
Pick a star right of the shelf,
You’ll be over the moon by sunrise,
A tailwind and a little grace will get you all the way to outer spaceCall You Up

Left-field of the country steel, “Call You Up” flows jazzy and smooth and “Only Way To Fly” twinkles with a dream-like quality that builds up to its soaring message.

Upbeat and optimistic, tracks like “Cut Your Groove” maintain the thread of Worsham’s earlier work on Rubberband, and the string and brass instrumentation add depth and an exciting new direction.

Surprising deep cuts such as the energetic indie rocker “Birthday Suit” (written by Luke Dick and Jason Lehning and originally destined for Dick’s indie punk band Republican Hair) punches above its weight with synth beats and Blur-esque woo hoos that evoke the excitement of the Brit Pop era. Another live favourite, “Take Me Drunk” is packed with wit and personality, but it’s “I55” tucked away at the back of the record that really stands out for me. Mid-tempo with rock edges, this is pure summer driving music as Worsham takes the listener back to his roots on a trip down I55 from Nashville to his hometown of Granada, Mississippi.

In country radio terms, I suspect that Worsham lacks what Aaron Watson describes in his song “Fence Post as “commercial appeal” although I would love to see him join the good work being done by Jon Pardi, Luke Combs and Midland in moving the dial on country radio just a little from the pop beats that are so overly prevalent. A well-respected musician, I suspect Worsham and his team take a broader view of success; whether it’s sitting in for Vince Gill with the Time Jumpers or stopping Nashville traffic on Broadway with his Midnight Jamboree, Charlie Worsham career will continue to rise and he has undoubtedly struck a chord with UK fans. If you have yet to discover Charlie, you’re in for a treat, and if you already know what I’m talking about, you’ll need no convincing to add Beginning of Things to your music collection!

  Track List
  1. Pants – Jeff Hyde
  2. Please People Please – Charlie Worsham, Ryan Tyndell
  3. Southern By the Grace of God – Charlie Worsham, Luke Dick, Shane McAnally
  4. Call You Up – Abe Stoklasa, Daniel Tashien
  5. Lawn Chair Don’t Care – Charlie Worsham, Brent Cobb, Ryan Tyndell
  6. Only Way to Fly – Charlie Worsham, Brent Cobb, Ryan Tyndell
  7. Old Times Sake – Charlie Worsham, Jeremy Spillman, Brent Cobb
  8. Cut Your Groove – Charlie Worsham, Oscar Charles
  9. I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – Charlie Worsham, Ryan Tyndell, Billy Montana
  10. The Beginning of Things – Abe Stoklasa, Donovan Woods
  11. Birthday Suit – Luke Dick, Jason Lehning
  12. I-55 – Charlie Worsham, Ben Hayslip
  13. Take Me Drunk – Charlie Worsham, Ryan Tyndell, Steve Bogard

Album Audio



About the Author

Amy

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I live for the experience of live music. Nashville is my kind of town and life feels pretty good at a country concert in the sun with a cold beer in hand.My appreciation of country came via my Dad’s collection in the 70’s and 80’s and I spent my teens listening to Springsteen. On a trip to the states about ten years ago I flicked to the CMT channel and Brad Paisley’s Whiskey Lullaby had me hooked. Since then my love of the genre has seen me travel to the US regularly to attend concerts, festivals and more intimate songwriter sessions in some great venues. It is terrific to see artists making the return trip this side of the Atlantic but equally refreshing to see some fantastic homegrown talent gaining recognition. This is an exciting time for “new country” and I am very happy to be along for the ride.