I came across The Judson Cole Band earlier this year, when I was impressed by their single “Call Me Back Home”. I immediately tried to find more music from them and was disappointed to not be able to find a complete album. Over the last few months, we’ve kept them on our radar, and we’re really excited to see that they were releasing their debut album this month!
One of our greatest pleasures is finding a solid album, from a new artist that we essentially know nothing about. I knew from the two songs I could find on iTunes, that the Judson Cole Band had a lot of potential, but I’ve been disappointed before by bands that have had really good debut singles – they hook you in with a really good single, but then you’re completely disappointed in the album. I was really hoping that was not going to be the case this time, so when the files for the album arrived in my inbox, I took a deep breath and hit play….
“16 Days” was the first song that came through my headphones. It was exactly what I wanted to hear. Cole’s vocals we’re smooth, the folky Americana feel was vibrant, and my foot was tapping before the first chorus ended. I was excited for the rest of the album and turned up the volume, as I got ready for the next track.
“Call Me Back Home” was a song I was already familiar with and made a good enough impression on us that we not only featured it in a single spotlight, but it was also #12 in our Most Underrated Singles of 2014. The song displays some of the best vocals on the album, and has a chorus with the strength of anything else at the top of the charts. When a band you’ve never heard of reaches the Top 50 with their debut single, you know it’s got to be good.
The tempo drops and the intimacy raises for the title track “Eastern Skies”. You can feel the passion in the each syllable of Cole’s lyrics and the touch of female harmony sprinkled in over the southern rock guitar licks, give you everything you’re looking for in a title track.
I have to admit, I was thrown for a loop as the chorus began on “Goodbye Dallas”: “Good bye Dallas, Hello Nashville, What’ve you got in store for me now, hello spotlight, goodbye waiting, I think I’ve finally found a way to make it out… of this town”. Talking about getting out of Texas, and to Nashville, isn’t the most popular thing to sing about in Texas music. While I don’t think the entire mainstream country scene is garbage, it definitely does not hold a candle to the Texas/Red Dirt music scene. The Texas/Red Dirt scene is about the music, not about the business, and Nashville seems to be the exact opposite. I was initially taken back by their message of attaining Nashville nirvana, but as I continued to listen to rest of the song, the message became clearer: So many country artists start off with dreams of getting to Nashville, and then quickly realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Cole lets us know his thoughts in the last chorus “Goodbye Nashville, and hello Dallas, it sure it good to see you right now, goodbye spotlight, I guess they’re fading, but I finally found way to make it out….of this town. “
I love it when artists include an acoustic track on their album (I wish every artist would do it). “Truth Be Told” is a confession of introspection, as Cole provides you a window in to his life’s internal journey. It’s just a guitar and story, giving the listener a personal connection.
The rest of the album provides you with a good mixture of stories, offering a fast paced, desperado story of love and betrayal (Poor Widows Fate), a story of the liberation in getting away (Time to Run), and the complexity of “Young Love”.
Our *PICKS* of the album:
“Leave Me Another Day” starts with a blast from the fiddle, and immediately catches the listener’s attention with the seriousness of the tone. The power in the music, the emotion in the vocals, and beguiling chorus, make this one of the best tracks on the album.
“Heart of Mine” is the most complete track and my favorite on the record. I love the full harmony on the chorus, the complexity the story offers in a dark love sentiment, and it features some of the best music on album. This is the song I immediately went to, when I went back to play the record again. Cole shows off his crafty writing and the superior production elevates the song from good to great! If you’re looking for a damn good song…..this is it!
Overall, we’re impressed with “Eastern Skies” and excited for this young band’s future! We would definitely consider this album an “artist’s album”, as it’s more about the lyrics and each song’s message, rather than it being radio friendly. It’s certainly too early to make comparisons to Sean McConnell, but it’s certainly not outrageous to say he and a very young McConnell are not all that far apart. Do yourself a favor and check him and the album out!
Check out the latest single “Call Me Back Home” below!
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.