Another New Morning, the latest from Cincinnati music veteran Jim Pelz, opens with a hot steel guitar lick over a cut time snare drum, and my first thought was, “Hot damn, a real country music record!” There are, of course, a couple of things wrong with this. First, that does not even begin to describe the breadth of this record - more on that later. Second, what is “real” country? In the 90s, it sure wasn’t Garth Brooks. In the 60s, it sure wasn’t the Nashville Sound. In the 30s, it definitely wasn’t Bob Wills. In short, “tradition” in country has less to do with any objective truth and more to do with what the listener grew up with.
Through that objective lens of experience, Another New Morning manages to tell stories that are familiar to many, steeped in a broad segment of that country music tradition. However, where so many modern purveyors of country music, when trying to tap into that tradition, create something that feels contrived or labored, Pelz has gone to the well to craft stories that feel honest.
For many, honesty - and its brother authenticity - is what makes a “real” country music record, and Another New Morning has that to spare. Songs like “Queen of the Last Lost Cause” paint a picture of someone we all know, and “Homestead” tells a painful story of loss told so profoundly, the listener is left wondering if Pelz is the son riding like hell away from the family farm.
For those who grew up in certain churches, the Gospel of “When Mavis Testifies” feels like being wrapped in a blanket from your grandmother’s house, where the musty but familiar smell and warmth can transport you back to a particular moment of a long, lost memory.
Sure, the musicianship on the Another New Morning is top-notch and the recording is clean. The styles run the gamut of most of the country music from the second half of the 20th Century, with all the crying steel guitar and twangy Telecaster a good country fan could want. But it’s the honesty in Pelz’s songs that elevates this record. The songs are deceptive, but make no mistake, you’ll find yourself engrossed in the stories.
Another New Morning
When Mavis Testifies
Queen Of The Last Lost Cause
Livin’ In Love With You
Saddest Boy In The World
Fare Thee Well