Your crusty chronicler is an individual who does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their new “List” format, it was nigh impossible not to be open-minded about it. So, with the spirit of teamwork in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”. This edition we consider Grant Langston’s Working Until I Die.
Alabama-born Langston is an American singer-songwriter. Reportedly raised on the music of Merle Haggard, Jerry Reed, Conway Twitty and Hank Williams, Langston has been playing guitar since he was 10 performing through his adolescence. In 1988 he moved to L. A. because Nashville didn’t fit his musical style. Over the next decade, he played in different bands. He released his debut disc, a solo EP titled All This and Pecan Pie in 2000.
Since then he has toured the globe and released additional albums including: Chinese Fire Drill (2001), Road Side Service which features a honky tonk take on Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” (2004), Koreatown (2006) Live in Bakersfield (2007) and Stand Up Man (2009).
(View the list to learn about Langston’s latest release.)
“I Fall for It Every Time” and “Trouble Knows”
Working Until I Die contains 12 cuts. Langston leads the way with his vocals, guitars, mandolin and piano. He is backed by Larry Marciano (banjo, acoustic, electric and slide guitar), Tony Horkins (drums, percussion and background vocals) and Josh Fleeger (bass). The album opens on the honky tonk tune “I Fall for It Every Time” which introduces Nicole Gordon on backing vocals. It’s an apt introduction to this collection of songs about heartbreak, hard work and hard liquor.
The second selection is “Trouble Knows” This song has more of a pop music feel to it. It features guest artist Carl Byron on piano and Gordon is remains with her backing vocals.
“She Don’t Have A Clue”
The next number is “She Don’t Have A Clue”. This is an almost humorous ballad that includes an encore performance by Byron on piano as Gordon again provides background vocals. Byron and Gordon stick around for the following track as well. Langston croons: “I don’t give and damn and she don’t have a clue.” (Yup. That’s your rascally writer’s problem. He always gives a damn . . . even when he shouldn’t.)
“Try Me” and “Coming for You”
“Try Me” is the first collaborative effort here as Langston has John L. Ramey help him out with the writing chores for this almost infectious country-edged, honky tonk track. “Coming for You”—like the other non-collaborative efforts—is a Langston original. The cut carries on the near tradition of backing vocals by Gordon and Byron remains here on piano to add even more familiarity to the sound.
“Working Until I Die”
“Working Until I Die” is a winner. There is no doubt as to why this was chosen as the titular track. This one is already a fan favorite. It’s one of his best songs here. It introduces Aubrey Richmond with some heavy fiddle work and again Gordon carries on with her backing vocals.
“Sweet Little Girl”
The seventh song is titled “Sweet Little Girl”. This nice, low-key track has an interesting introduction and comes complete with a bit of a California Western or even Tex-Mex edge to it. It has that border town bar feel to it as Langston expects the worse but hopes for the best here.
“Along for the Ride”
Don’t kick back too much though cowboys and girls. Langston quickly picks up the pace again as he takes his listeners “Along for the Ride”. This is a memorable alt-country cut with David Woodford on both baritone and alto sax. It’s highlighted by Richmond’s encore on fiery fiddle and Gordon’s nearly ever-present backing vocals.
“Little Less Fun”
“Little Less Fun” reflects a sad truth but in a very fun way. This track– co-written with Rich McCulley– introduces a “gang chorus” portrayed by The Virgin Singers. Anna Rosales is also introduced on backing vocals and Richmond returns on the fiddle. This has a live, barroom feel to it and would work well live.
“Everyone Loves Me When I Am Drunk”
“Everyone Loves Me When I Am Drunk” is a humorous hit. It might be just a tad too autobiographical for the whiskey drinker but no doubt Langston’s audiences would appreciate him co-writing this one with drinking buddy Mark Christian. Gordon, Byron and The Virgin Singers all return to flesh out another good song.
“Honky Tonk Special”
The next number is “Honky Tonk Special”. This might very well be honky tonk but who would think from the title that this speedy, up-beat tune had anything to do with a woman? Gotta love the guitar solo work here as well as Langston welcomes back Gordon on backing vocals.
“Ain’t That Kind of Cowboy”
“Ain’t That Kind of Cowboy” This is a nice ballad with clever, believable lyrics. This is an effective songstory that tells a tuneful tale that your randy writer knows well. Sarah Kramer appears on tasteful trumpet and Chris Lawrence plays some poignant pedal steel on a quiet album end-note that is obviously influenced by his old vinyl collection and yet somehow still clearly new.
“The material is still me, but the vibe is very different” Langston states. Grant Langston’s Working Until I Die just might be his most ambitious work yet. So look out, music fans, Grant Langston is here and he is “Coming For You”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.