A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Brandon Rhyder “That’s Just Me” (Reserve Records/Thirty Tigers)
One of the most distinctive voices to come out of the Lone Star State in many years, Brandon Rhyder puts his singular croon to excellent use on “That’s Just Me.”
The hard-touring Texas country mainstay will cross the Red River in support of his eighth full-length album in 12 years when he plays at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E Sheridan. For more information, go to Ö www.wormydog.com.
Rhyder wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 12 new tracks, and “That’s Just Me” affirms his commitment to old-school country music while handily incorporating elements of rock, Americana and blues. The galloping opener “Haggard,” already a No. 1 hit on the Texas Regional Radio Report, takes on the mainstream country trend of paying homage to rural ways but augments it with authentic songwriting, yodeling vocals and a scorching fiddle from Marian Brackney.
He also brings a genuine twang and feeling into “Richest Poor People,” a homey slow-dance tribute to modest family living that can legitimately name drop Darrell Scott and Walt Wilkins.
The emotionally gripping post-argument ballad “Leave” mostly sounds country, but a few rock ‘n’ roll flourishes make it even more compelling. Rhyder, who co-produced the album with longtime collaborator Matt Powell, grounds his uplifting anthem “Love Red” in Americana influences. Although the country-blues track “Undercover Lover,” which he penned with Powell, ultimately sounds more silly than seductive, it still boasts a pretty cool groove.
Rhyder also plays well with other Texas country stars on “That’s Just Me.” He and Wade Bowen co-wrote the buoyant ballad “Pray the Night,” while he and Josh Abbott collaborated on the appropriately intense “Hell’s Gate” about the recent Texas wildfires.