High and Dry

When Marty Brown appeared on CBS’ 48 Hours in a report on the country-music business, the 25-year-old Kentuckian seemed like thousands of other Nashville hopefuls, albeit more guileless than most. On record, though, the neotraditionalist seems more like the second coming of hillbilly music’s Big Daddy, Hank Williams. He’s the sweetest surprise to ride the train in a long, long time and so authentically country he probably still has a tick in his navel. High and Dry is rooted in the unfettered country styles of the 1940s and ’50s — and even the ’20s and ’30s — Brown’s sound harkens back to the plaintive Jimmie Rodgers and occasionally the young Elvis, in his Sun Records days. But Brown owes his biggest debt to Williams, whose choke-and-moan vocal technique (all trembling emotion and straightforward pain) he’s made his own. Brown’s writing, too, goes, to the genre’s deepest sources for its imagery (falling leaves a lonesome metaphor for a lover’s tears in ”Indian Summer Blues”) and subjects (”Honky Tonk Special” is a son’s poignant plea to the town’s painted ladies to quit tempting his philandering daddy). In keeping with their mood, many of the tunes are laced with a weepy steel guitar and the kind of ghostly, keening fiddle guaranteed to raise goosebumps. Ironically, Brown’s music may be too rural and retrograde for contemporary country radio. Find it anyway: These are songs written from the very heart and heartache of a timeless tradition. A+

High and Dry
  • Music