Paul Cauthen turns country music on its ear yet manages to drill to the true heart of it, impact after whopping impact, on “Country Coming Down.” Cauthen’s a Texan who grew up in the church, his father the local preacher. He had his first taste of acclaim with the Americana roots duo Sons of Fathers. “My Gospel,” his 2016 solo debut of soulful, gospel-tinged Southwestern country, set him apart, and megaphoned his arrival. “Cauthen sings with Waylon Jennings heft, Roy Orbison cool, and Elvis swagger,” I wrote of him back then. He’s now referred to as Big Velvet, and his huge, velvety baritone is the focal point of every song here. Cauthen presents a passion play of sorts with this fourth recording, about the characters that create country music, or just plain love it and live it, every day, with a hunger.
Supreme wit, blunt honesty, and a taut, bear-trap-catchy rhythm electrifies “Country as Fuck.” A sequel it seems, to “Cocaine Country Dancing,” one of the standout tracks on his previous album, this profound little ditty succeeds wildly by its massive groove and tongue-in-cheek humor in place of dark, stark reality. Cauthen battled a few demons at the time. But when he sings “I’m a shade tree mechanic, got a one-ton truck, I drink a 30-pack a day ‘cause I’m country as fuck,” you know that he triumphed, and that you’d better buckle up for an altogether new kind of urban country ride.
Next up, “Caught Me at a Good Time,” a motorized R&B shuffle that accelerates into uncommon, elevated soulfulness and features raggedy-sharp guitar. “High Heels” then caps the album-opening, hedonistic triad with seductive two-stepping. At the end of another week of “Earning my blue collar,” a hard-working American tells his lady to “Put on them high heels, ‘cause we’re goin’ out tonight.” This tune obliterates worries with the best kind of country music there could possibly be right now. Then, country and disco co-exist in “Country Clubbin’,” an intoxicating winner from the hand-clappin’ beat to the ladies singing along, their hips swaying in unison, you imagine. Country Coming Down reaches its apex like a punch in the teeth when Cauthen yowls “Fuck You Money,” a fat slab of greasy rage with a surprising, jazzy interlude.
The mood lightens during the cruise to the finale. In the grand piano led “Roll on Over,” Cauthen sings in a voice so incredibly seasoned and thus so imposing, he sounds as if he’s lived the experiences of a man thrice his age, the Jed Clampett goofiness completely gone. “Country Coming Down” brings it all to a Texas-plains close, like the breeze a freight train creates, with Cauthen’s high-lonesome harp its whistle. Listen to his lyrics. Paul Cauthen stays tuned in. Otherwise, to quote the man himself, “Spin the shit out of this party of an album!”
‘Country Coming Down’
Label: Thirty Tigers
Release: April 1, 2022