Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
What’s in a name? A name is the first introduction to a person or a thing. I think a name is very important. So when I think of Joe’s Truck Stop, the name conjures up images of something familiar and something comfortable. The name is very welcoming, they serve one and all at Joe’s. The customer service and execution by the folks at Joe’s is second to none.
The question I sometimes ask is, “does the music hold up to the name”? And like usual, the answer is a resounding yes. The music is comforting and something that is ubiquitous. Well, don’t get fooled because the instruments may sound familiar, but the songs are very unique and incorporate bluegrass, rock and roll, country, and rockabilly. A very big pot of musical gumbo.
Joe is a busy fellow. Not only does he front his own band, he is also the fiddle player in The Tillers. In addition, Joe puts on a festival every April called Hagfest. The festival pays homage to Merle Haggard and proceeds go to charity. I am not sure when Joe has time to record. He must not sleep very much.The lineup for Joe’s truck Stop is as follows: Joe Macheret – vocals, acoustic guitar, fiddle, and steel guitar; Ben Sweeney – electric guitar; Andrew Mcpheters – vocals and banjo; Dave Hathaway – bass; and, Aaron Cordell – drums.
Whatever the formula is, it probably shouldn’t change any. American Dreams is a damn good country album. This rocks more than a cruise ship in a hurricane. There is a song that has taken an early lead as far as a favorite goes. That is subject to change because next week I may have a new favorite. As of right now, that honor goes to When I Say… (Track 4). This is a Tex/Mex beauty that would make the great Willie Nelson proud. Joe’s voice has a very soothing quality with a tinge of the sadness that he sings and writes about. This song makes me feel like I am in a honky tonk in West Texas.
Blues For Two (Track 1) is more of a ragtime number. The piano parts really defines the genre on this song. I would say that his song definitely leans more towards the western swing neighborhood. But just when you think you got the whole thing figured out, Joe and the boys throw a curve ball. At about three minutes in, the song completely changes into a bluegrass rave up. Even though the music is fast and uplifting, it is important not to lose sight of the lyrics, this is a sad song, after all:
“It was just the other day
when she called me up on the phone
that’s right she called me up on the phone
she said thanks for all your time, but I’ve got me a ramblin mind
I’m halfway cross 50, I’m sure you’ll do just fine
Now I’ve got blues for two, blues for two
darlin won’t you come and spend some time with me
cuz I’ve got blues for two and I can see that you do to
I just need someone to help me off my knees
I’ve got blues for two and I just don’t don’t what to do
my heart keeps sinking lower each day
hell I wish it wasn’t so but I can’t stand to see her go
Tell me something I can do to make her stay”
There have been a lot of songs written in country about the perils and pitfalls of being a troubadour. One More Night (Track 10) is a little bit of a different take on the subject. This song explores the feelings of loneliness and isolation that is a by product of being a travelling, touring musician. There are sacrifices to be made. One of those sacrifices is the inability to establish a long lasting relationship. The music is so beautiful and twangy. A perfect country tear jerker. Take a listen to the guitar solo at around 2:15. It should be in the honky tonk hall of fame.
The Cincinnati/Northen Kentucky area may not be known as a hotbed for real and traditional based country music. That’s about to change with bands like Joe’s Truck Stop, among many other Southgate House Revival regulars. These guys are super legit players and really know to to play the shit out their instruments. American Dream is vibrant and vital. I have a strong suspicion that American Dreams will be there at the end of the year when I recap the best of 2018.