Courtesy of The Washington Post
Goliad, TX (July 16, 2020) – GRAMMY®-nominated progressive retro country’s Midland have cut against conventional wisdom since arriving with 2017’s 2x platinum-certified chart-topper “Drinkin’ Problem.” Named for a Dwight Yoakam song, their thrift couture have earned them Esquire, GQ and Vogue, so it’s not surprising the erstwhile harmony-heavy trio of Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy took prominent author Carlo Rotella on the road for the last leg of their ROAD TO THE RODEO Tour.
On the bus, in a greasy spoon, killing time, waiting around, soundcheck, backstage, onstage, in the crowd, under the stage, on lawn chairs out back and everywhere in between, The Washington Post had total access to the critics’ favorites who favor ‘70s and ‘80s country-rock that ranges from Mickey Gilley to the Eagles, Gary Stewart to Dwight Yoakam. Whether small-town dance halls or opening the Houston Rodeo to over 56,000 people, Midland pulled no punches.
“To give someone that kind of access,” Wystrach says, “is an act of faith, or foolery. We only have one gear: wide open. We’re not gonna tamp it down because there’s a journalist on board, so you know, it was a little bit Russian roulette, a little bit here we are as we are.”
As Rotella writes in the longform feature about the band who channels Buck Owens, Gary Stewart, Keith Whitley, Merle Haggard and Charlie Rich through a strong prism of Dwight Yoakam, the Eagles and California country rock, “At a casual glance, Midland seems like yet another bunch of guys’ guys celebrating a life of boozing and womanizing, but there’s a post-bro thread running through everything they do. Put-upon women oppressed by male jerks get their day in court in Midland’s songs, and a self-disarming gentleness takes the edge off their calculated cock-of-the-walk manner.”
Whether singing “Mr. Lonely” in a 4-H cattle barn, bouncing a fussy baby or racing up a ramp during a crescendo-ing moment in Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down,” there are no prisoners taken – only the wild ride of a band trying to make it together on their own terms. Reflective, the three men talk about how they came to country and why they each put a successful career on pause to chase the music.
That fire is also on full display in Midland Live from the Palomino, the live set captured when the band based in Dripping Springs, Texas, took over what was once North Hollywood’s iconic honky tonk. Already available digitally, a special two-disc vinyl edition is being re-mixed and re-mastered for August 29, 2020’s Record Store Day. Taking the stage at the home away from home for Merle Haggard, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Emmylou Harris, the Pretenders, Commander Cody, then Dwight Yoakam, the Traveling Wilburys and Lucinda Williams, it was an absolutely one-night only affair for the band hailed by the Austin American-Statesman for “reaching high above honky-tonk bounds” and the New York Times for “their retro country elegance.”.
As much high-flying side show as business as expected, Rotella’s profile notes, “To a non-traditionalist’s ear, the song’s back-to-the’70s feel brings other period associations that stray far from the honky-tonk mainline running from Hank Williams through Merle Haggard. Midland’s high harmonies and the studied unction of its sound have prompted frequent comparisons to the Laurel Canyon country-rock of the Eagles…”
With old school country’s blend of drinking, cheating and seduction songs, the trio are as at home on a massive stage at NRG Stadium as they are in an old school Texas dancehall. Given unprecedented access, The WaPo goes up close and unrelentingly flung at life on the road with a band on the verge who aren’t afraid to push themselves – or their audience. For anyone who’s ever wondered how it feels to be on the cusp of a dream, “The Return of Cheatin’ Songs” is as close as you can get without humping gear.
The Return of Cheatin’ Songs
Before the pandemic the band Midland had arrived on the verge of country stardom by reclaiming vintage styles from the genre’s history and making them sound new again.