Artist: The Coal Men
Album: Pushed to the Side
Release Date: 08/19/2016
Guitarist Dave Coleman impressed me with his rock n’ roll guitar licks on the Coal Men’s 2013 Escalator. This one has a completely different feel. It’s dark, dusty, and atmospheric, showcasing Coleman’s songwriting skills more than his immense guitar chops, which are, of course, still evident but usually mostly supporting the songs. His songs paint character sketches of lost souls that fell between the cracks, thus the title. Coleman explains it this way, “It’s not a concept record, but the narratives of being pushed to the side, of being on the fringe or alienated; they’re part of the story of the record.” Coleman either wrote or co-penned the dozen tunes which touch on some other themes too.
The memorable character sketches take the names in these song titles: “Willy Jett,” Lilly Hurst” and “Travis.” “Fast Rider” is a funky, sensual nod to his wife. While eerie loneliness prevails in several tracks, there are some up-tempo moments too. “The Payoff” is about Nashville, where too many people are trying for that one breakthrough. “Speeding Like a Demon” is according to Coleman, “…our homage to Jason & the Scorchers, taking traditional country but revvin’ it up in a three-piece rock n’ roll band that’s influenced as much by Hendrix as Hank or Webb Pierce.” The crunching guitar colors “The Singer (in Louisville),” which Coleman based on a story that Tommy Womack wrote for Based on: Words, Notes and Art from Nashville, a book/cd collection.
Coleman, especially, gets plenty of studio work and live gigs in Nashville. The band makes seven Key West trips a year, and recorded the basic tracks of the record there. Otherwise, you can find Coleman, drummer Dave Ray and bassist Paul Slivka in East Nashville’s Family Wash or other welcoming venues in the city. They associate with like-minded souls like Womack, Todd Snider, Elizabeth Cook, Tony Joe White, Bob Delevante and others.
Believe or not, the band has been together for 17 years but this is only their third album. The Coal Men, once a twosome, are now a trio and, unlike Escalator’s many guest artists, they only added Seth Timbs on keyboards for some tracks this time. There’s plenty of space in many of the songs. Coleman also favors the baritone guitar, as it complements his deep baritone voice and adds an echoing quality that suits many of the tunes.
This is a moody record. It won’t leap out of the speakers and grab you. It’s challenging; you need to find quiet time to appreciate the stripped-down beauty of the songs.