1. Baseball On The Moon
2. Funerals And Football Games
4. Ain’t My Town
5. Kerouac Kings
6. Young in America
7. Comeback Kid
8. 13th Floor
9. Touchdown Town
10. Flatland Sunrise
11. When They Take Your Truck
12. Color Blind
13. Honest Work
Let’s start by saying that Erik Dylan’s debut album ‘Heart Of A Flatland Boy’ was one of the best Country albums of 2016 with stories about small town life in rural America and drawing musical inspiration from the likes of Steve Earle and other Country singer/ songwriters. This follow up had high expectations accompanying it because of how great that debut was, and, despite an initial concern, Dylan has crafted another strong album that sees him trying some new things while also creating some more sonic movies of real life in middle America.
Starting off with the musically reserved title track, this collection of short stories with a message of perseverance starts well. The subtle electric guitar touches are expertly placed to maximize their effect as Dylan creates a lasting hook in the chorus. If there is a fault with this album, it might be that ‘Funerals And Football Games’ follows the first song with a similar enough tempo and approach. It can feel like the two songs blend together which is a shame as they are both strong songs taken on their own. His lyrics are on point about doing what needs to be done to make ends meet while also remembering what the truly important things in life are.
Dylan takes a risk on track three with his cover of Steve Earle’s ‘Someday.’ I generally think it is a very bad idea to cover Earle, especially from the ‘Guitar Town’ record. I would point to Ginger Wildheart’s wide miss recently on ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ as an example of how wrong it can go, even by one of my favorite artists. Dylan has Earle appear on this version with him and changes it from the acoustic classic to a Springsteen styled rocker that is enjoyable but not up to the diamond level of the original.
I was starting to get a little nervous how this album was going at this point as these three songs were not matching the greatness of the debut when my faith was restored with the brilliant ‘Ain’t My Town.’ Sounding like early Steve Earle, Dylan takes apart the stereotypes given to each small town and creates a chorus that should be blasting on every country and Americana radio station across the world.
“That ain’t my town; that ain’t my life. This dot on a map with one stop light. Its got a heart and its got soul a whole lot deeper than the shallow, so don’t go painting pictures about what you don’t know about, putting words in my mouth cause that ain’t my town…” The red dirt style guitar solo here stands out in the mix before driving home the chorus one final time.
Dylan continues to take the album in new directions with ‘Kerouac Kings’ opening up with a flurry of electric guitars and channeling the debut’s title track with a driving beat and a solid chorus that will have you driving faster, singing loudly, and foot tapping. This is fine, vintage Rock 'n Roll. Things continue to steamroll along with the rocking ‘Young In America’ tapping into the spirit of John Mellencamp and Springsteen (nice nod to ‘Born To Run’ lyrically) with a huge chorus, blazing guitar solo, and a beat that will get your hands in the air.
‘Comeback Kid’ slows things back down with the mix turning the vocals up in the verses and chorus to give the words more impact. This song benefits from the up tempo songs that lead into it and give it more power than if it had followed another ballad. “Someday I’m gonna get you that white picket fence and that little pink house like Mellencamp said cause I want to taste the good life before the lord puts us to bed. Girl keep holdin on…”
One of Dylan’s huge strengths is the power he has with words with this continuing on the following track ‘13th Floor,’ which is another slow burner detailing dark moments in life that haunt us and remain with us no matter how much we try to shove it away in our minds because we “got to put all the hurt somewhere.” Unlike the beginning of the album, ‘Comeback Kid’ and ‘13th Floor’ don’t stumble by having two slow songs together because of the tracks that lead into them and the songs that follow them.
‘Touchdown Town’ kicks the door in and tells us about the “guitar kid in a touchdown town in a black t-shirt with his head in the clouds.” Dlyan again channeling vintage Earle, Mellencamp, Springsteen, and even Reckless Kelly. This was one of my favorite songs when I first heard the album, and it has not lost any of its charm. I would love to see Dylan get a chance to make a video for this song as I could see this song becoming a hit, especially here in Texas.
‘Flatland Sunrise’ being another classic track that sees Dylan’s vocals soar in the chorus, while channeling a classic red dirt sound that should make it a hit all across middle America as our character in the song tries to manage his land when the rain isn’t coming. “Staring at a Flatland Sunrise wondering how we’re going to get by with every dust cloud rolling in bringing the hard times back again and we’ll break our backs, cut this land on family name and two good hands, chasing the good life under a Midwest sky.”
Dylan keeps the electric guitar front and center with ‘When They Take Your Truck” detailing someone who is slowly having everything taken away from him as he gets older, from the death of his wife to the loss of his eyesight and memory. When we are young, we celebrate our freedom when we get that first car or truck so we can go wherever we want, and Dylan flips this feeling on its head by addressing what happens when that gets taken away from us.
‘Color Blind’ addresses racism by asking if we would be better off if everything were in shades of grey and wondering where we as humans let things go wrong. Dylan hitting the listener hard lyrically on the second verse: “We said that we’d do better than our parents did, we wouldn’t make the same mistakes with our own kids, but here we are just playing out the same old shit. I guess the problem’s us, I bet the lord above, the one who made us is that thinking that he overestimated us, maybe being different wouldn’t break us if all we saw was love.”
‘Honest Work’ concludes the album with the opening of some electric guitar giving way to a midtempo song that channels the pace of the opening songs but provides some additional dynamics musically that give it some power, coupled with a lyric telling the story of someone (Marleena) who came to America for a chance she did not have back home. Dylan challenges those that don’t think she should be here by asking them to look at their own families and histories with an extremely well done set of lyrics.
While I would have adjusted the running order a bit at the beginning of the record, Dylan has made another terrific album that continues to get more and more plays from me each week since it has been released. I love artists who put this kind of hard work into their songs as there is passion, heart, soul, genuineness, love, and respect bleeding out of these songs that make them so much more than just songs. These are anthems that people can claim as their own and allow us to feel like we have a close relationship with each character here. Dylan does not just create albums of music; he creates powerful stories with an awesome soundtrack.
‘Baseball On The Moon’ is available now digitally at iTunes and Amazon with LP/ CD available on his website.
Website - http://www.erikdylan.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/erikdylanmusic/
Review - Gerald Stansbury