Chad Sullins And The Last Call Coalition: Incommunicado
Associations between places, people, events and particular albums litter the landscape of my past, and probably yours. Take for example the summer between my junior and senior year in high school, the summer of 1979. I’m in a dorm at the University of Alabama in some honors program (before they found out my test scores were a fluke) with exactly two tapes, Dire Straits Communique and Molly Hatchet’s self-titled first record. Back then I was a two- or three-record kinda guy, I’d play them in rotation until they literally quit playing. Mark Knopfler had rocked my world pretty well with the first Dire Straits, and I was trying to get adjusted to the new one. One of the guys in the dorm with me that summer was from Florida and he brought the first Molly Hatchet album to the party. I stole … er, borrowed it, and spent the summer playing air guitar and saying “Chomp Chomp.” Makes me smile to think about it, even now.
Rock is well suited for country sensibilities, but it often gets edged out of the Americana consciousness by folkier stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I dig folk. I’d fight Dave right now just to have a beer with Gillian. My own preferences these days generally run toward acoustic music. But there’s still a place in my heart for rock, especially the alt-country kind. Thanks to a very persistent Brandy Reed, I’ve had the new record by Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition in my rotation for the last several days. They call the record Incommunicado, which brought to mind the aforementioned Dire Straits record, and that summer of my youth, but the sound has more in common with the other record from that last summer of the 70’s. Even that’s not really fair, because Incommunicado sounds nothing like that record, except that it rocks in an alt-country way. And it makes me smile.
Can an Oklahoma band make Southern rock? Would it want to? No, it’s Red Dirt music, its own sub-genre, but we shouldn’t worry too much about that. Even though I’ll bet some reviewer will refer to the music these Stillwater guys are playing as Southern rock. It’s rock all right. These boys from Oklahoma turn their amps up strong. (It’s funny, though, but I noticed that all but one of the songs was recorded at a studio in Norman. Not sure what to say about that.) The Last Call Coalition’s songs are written well enough to be acoustic music, but I’m so glad most of them are plugged in and loud. It’s good to feel music every once in a while.
My personal favorite of the songs on this record (produced by Wes Sharon) is the first song, Scratch. “I know you want to know me girl, but trust me, you don’t want to know me well.” Another cut I like a lot is August Sun. As I listen to that song (“Don’t own a gun, can’t afford the ammunition. Not sure they’d give me one, a man in my condition.”), I’m thinking that there’s something really special about Mr. Sullins’s voice. Matter of fact? Here it is? Effortless? I’m not sure how to describe the vocal attitude he brings to the table. Whatever it is, it works.
My only regret about the music on Incommunicado is that I haven’t seen Mr. Sullins and his colleagues (Josh Rutz, Jerry Stanley and Jeremy Clark) play it live. I bet they do Stillwater proud. Red Dirt forever!
Incommunicado was released July 10 by Smith Music Group.
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