In the midst of chaotic unknowns and health anxieties, musicians and fans alike have searched for things to help ease the Coronavirus quarantine. Set the worry aside and turn up the speaker to Billy Hartman’s calming and wholesome album “Beans & Cornbread.”
“Beans & Cornbread”
1. Beans & Cornbread
2. Cheese & Taters
4. Doin’ Swell
5. Easy Way
8. Judgement Day
9. Walk with Me Tonight
Hartman brings it back to the purity of good songwriting, having recorded and produced the album at Ryan Jackson’s home studio. He describes his sound as “back porch” music, saying “it’s like the first bite of biscuits and gravy with cheese on a late night, hungover on KD, November morning.” To me, it’s like jalapeño poppers on the grill and the feel of a Sunday sun on red freckles and plant prickles. With subtle appearances from a dobro, fiddle and mandolin, the album holds a light acoustic campfire-like rhythm.
There is a particular Blaze Foley feel about Hartman’s simple instrumentation and powerful word choices. Track “Cheese & Taters” is a pretty love song without all the cliches of generic writing while “Doin’ Swell” paints a picture of a struggling friend among those who seem to be moving a little better than he is.
From the token Outlaw jam “Easy Way” to your unorthodox retelling of America’s favorite character “Forrest,” “Beans & Cornbread” has a bite of every feeling the foundation of songwriting is based on. Choosing between “Chicago,” “Jimmy,” and “Walk with Me Tonight” is almost impossible, but our *PICK* is “Judgment Day.”
”Judgment Day” is a melancholy reminder of our daily choices that lead to inevitable consequences. Wesley Holtsford’s smooth fiddle adds an achey addition to the tune. Hard hitting lyrics like “the outcomes all the same, you don’t change your way, welcome everybody to judgment day” force the listener into silent reflection.
With so many solid stories on this album, perhaps the best way to cope with the boredom and emotional instability of quarantine would be title track “Beans & Cornbread.” This song can’t help but put a smile on your face. It’s fulfilling like “a steak that ain’t well done” while still giving the listener a yearning for more. “Beans & Cornbread” is a shining example of setting down the worries of the world and focusing on what’s truly important and heart-filling. Perhaps the most important line during this pandemic is “there’s plenty of bacon for me and you, we got plenty to go around.” We have plenty of love, good music, (and toilet paper) to go around, so might as well sit down and enjoy yourself for a moment. Enjoy the beans & cornbread you’ve been handed.
You can find Hartman on Instagram at @reverend_billyhartman and stream his music on Spotify and iTunes. Let us know what “Beans & Cornbread” brings your memories back to.