Southern rock and country music have shared a particularly close connection. From Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Eagles to Blackberry Smoke and the Drive-By Truckers, nearly every decade has had flashes of brilliance when the two genres are blended together. Today, Joe Stamm Band is attempting to do the same with their third studio album, Wild Man.
When you first listen to Wild Man, the first thing that will most likely stick out is the fine line the band rides between country and southern rock. While admittedly, I believe the more traditionally country-leaning tracks are the strongest on the record, the moments of heavier instrumentation such as Predators And Prey work much better than say the latest tracks from Jason Aldean. The blend feels extremely cohesive throughout the 11-track, 40-minute album.
Whether it’s a sparrow, a coat of paint or a “wild man”, Stamm shows his strengths in writing both in a literal and metaphorical sense throughout the record. The album absolutely shines lyrically and feels like Stamm is giving the listener a peak behind the curtain of his thoughts, fears and passions.
Dollar General Sign is a clear standout on the record. Using what I like to call “Midwest simplicity,” Stamm uses a sparrow making a nest in the “O” of the Dollar General sign as a comparison to how everyone is simply trying to get by. Throughout the track, the sparrow becomes a sort of microcosm of small-town America. For those who live in a small midwest town such as myself, I feel that there is a certain amount of empathy and relatability found with the sparrow.
“She’s just trying to make a home
She’s just trying to get by
Picking up the pieces everyone else leaves behind
There’s a sparrow lives in the “O” of the Dollar General sign”
The additional touches of the narrator working as a Mountain Dew vendor going into the titular store, the boy sitting at the corner of the store smoking discarded cigarettes and finally the old man sitting reflecting on the now-destroyed Dollar General really bring the narrative full circle. It’s a bittersweet moment that ultimately reflects issues found in small-town living and how quickly time moves.
The closing track, Second Coat of Paint, is another lyrical standout from Stamm. Here, he likens past trauma and the healing of said trauma to painting a room. He builds the song around the fact that time doesn’t always heal all wounds. Instead, it takes finding someone who will cover up the wounds with love and understanding. The metaphor of walls being trauma and love being the paint is an extremely effective one that is revealed beautifully throughout the song. The final lines of the chorus particularly strengthen the metaphor.
“It’s gonna take a lifetime
Colors you can’t change
You can cover up what’s done
But it can never be the same”
The touches of steel guitar and even an organ make Second Coat of Paint a delight to listen to both lyrically and sonically. It flashes an extremely delicate side of Stamm and closes Wild Man perfectly. Stamm’s vocals on the final lines of the final chorus are simply gut-wrenching; the emotion felt in his voice is palpable when he sings,
“Because life is a patchwork and you just can’t erase
The pain underneath, it never went away
In the end, every lifetime ends in a grave
You can fill in the hole, but it will never be the same”
Overall, Wild Man is an excellent record from Stamm and Co. that truly makes you question where the boundaries between country and southern rock stand. It’s one of those records, much like the great ones from Eric Church, that challenges genre conventions and produces an album that feels wholly authentic to Stamm and his band. Stamm flexes his lyrical ability on Second Coat Of Paint and Dollar General Sign while simultaneously demonstrating the ability to let loose musically on Timber and Predators And Prey. The combination of poignant lyrics and excellent production make Wild Man a must-listen independent country record.
Listen to the title track here: