Runnels is country. The Austin, Texas singer songwriter
knows how to twist and juice his lyrics, leaving you decidedly
aware how life and love can leave you somewhere far from where it
started. There’s a tear in the beer here. There’s ache.
There’s pain. But isn’t that the stamp of a good country song? On
these 10 tunes on Jukebox Boulevard, out now on Lucky Penny
Records, Runnels pines, bares and refines the honesty.
Out now with his
fourth country album, the low-key Runnels – you try finding fan
photos – is retracing my comments given to his last album, Don’t
At the time, I said
he was an acquired listen. He is. His voice isn’t funneled
through a whiz-bang voice enhancer; there’s no Nashville gloss
to his vocals, it’s more the honest lament of a guy, described,
again, by me in that earlier review as someone who wears his heart
on his cowboy shirt – right next to the beer stains picked up
from leaning a little too long at the corner bar. Runnels is no
Paisley and he surely doesn’t do it like George, Alan or Toby;
he’s from a mold that leans more towards tradition, preferring
classic to chart.
The one-time former
punk vocalist is well suited to his, now, preferred genre. He
writes simply. He sings keenly. He delivers without fanfare. This
is country music– a little twang, plenty of attitude and colored
with the grit of a sawdust floor. It’s real. It’s honky tonk.
It’s, as each new album shows, unique Runnels.
Tracks like “Come
Home Darlin”, a tale of too many words said and too much drink
drunk is a piano and steel Saturday night shuffler sure to connect
with warring couples. The twang-led “Pretty Please” and the
despondent “Lonely Street” are heart benders, while a change
of tempo comes with the rocky “Your Turn To Cry” and the
retro-sounding “Get Along”.
Overall, this is an
album, when given the plays, grows on you. Runnels’ vibrato and
melodic waver add style, while the actual songs reveal a
songwriter with flair and substance. The primed studio band adds
needed push and drive with tasteful doses of steel, piano and
violin, making the package complete and a keeper for today’s