Name Neon Blue a throwback to the boot-scootin’ days of the Nineteen Nineties, for those who should. Definitely, Nashville-based nation singer Joshua Hedley welcomes such comparisons, kicking off his second file with “Broke Once more,” a breakneck boogie with a stuttering refrain that splits the distinction between Brooks & Dunn and Garth Brooks—superstars who pushed nation music into stadiums within the ’90s with out completely abandoning the hardscrabble spirit of honky tonk.
Hedley makes no bones about being well-versed within the style’s historical past. Within the second monitor on Neon Blue, he calls himself “a singing professor of nation and western,” resuscitating a phrase that fell out of favor someday within the late Nineteen Sixties—a bygone period Hedley expertly evoked on his 2018 Third Man debut, Mr. Jukebox. That file positioned Hedley as an unabashed revivalist, crafting a meticulous, loving re-creation of the heyday of the Nashville Sound, layering supple strings and vocal harmonies over the regular clomp of tic-tac bass. It was the sort of train that proves the thesis he affords “Nation & Western”: Hedley is aware of his chosen style so effectively that he may assemble an actual duplicate of a sure period if he so chooses.
This time round, Hedley reduce a file constructed upon his perception that nation music took a pointy left flip someplace round 1997, abandoning fiddles and metal guitars for shinier digital accouterments. (Not so coincidentally, this was additionally the time when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 took maintain, governmental deregulation that wound up homogenizing mainstream American music of each style.) Again within the Nineteen Nineties, the sector rock strikes of Garth Brooks camouflaged the deep, distinct roots in basic nation, a lineage that appears extra evident in hindsight. On Neon Blue, Hedley begins right here in his effort to carry nation music again to the barrooms.
Hedley isn’t chasing a sound a lot as an aesthetic, distilling nation music to its essence: joyous and mournful songs about damaged hearts, dead-end jobs, boozing, and loving. He retains his stakes and sounds modest. The place trendy nation music is designed to be pumped out of high-end programs at nameless, brightly-lit sports activities bars, Hedley is making music for dives. No prime shelf liquor or glossy product placements for Hedley: He’s down on the nook beer joint, ingesting no matter’s on faucet, within the can or within the bottle.
Neon Blue is steeped within the tradition of saloons, with barrooms taking part in a distinguished function in many of the file’s 12 songs. Hedley meets a cowgirl on the Damaged Spoke; he surveys the group on the honky tonk and notes that “The Final Factor within the World” it wants is one other damaged coronary heart; he asks to be buried beneath a barroom flooring together with his boots on. He could also be ingesting his sorrows away, however he additionally discovers love beneath the nice and cozy neon glow, pining for crushes and singing about an outdated couple who discovered love in a bar.