Chad Richard Worthy Cause ChadRichardSongs.com
With a soulful country voice reminiscent of both Chris Stapleton (“Right Now” and “Worthy Cause,” just two songs where he gets especially pensive and low-nsome) and the elevated backwoods poetry favoured by Darrell Scott (“German Angel”: “limestone walls over streets of gold”), Chad Richard [REE-shard, y’all] has released a memorable sophomore album.
Working with Walt Wilkins (co-producer, guitars) and Roy Flynt (co-producer, bass and various keys including B 3 on “12 More Days of Blue “ and “Waters Rise”), Richard comes out of southeast Texas, where the Sabine River bottomlands meet up with Louisiana; while there are hints of the Pelican State in his music, this take on Americana is largely pure Texas dirt in the tradition established by the dual-named icons—Billy Joe, Jerry Jeff, Robert Earl, and early Ray Wylie.
“Slow Rollin’ Stateline” most reveals Richard’s Louisiana roots; swampy fiddle (Marian Brackney) accents a paean to his shared LA/TX underpinning. The muddy Sabine provides the cultural divide: “Zydeco to the east and gumbo too, Texas swing to the west, world’s best barbeque.” His dueling heritage is further acknowledged via additional musical allusions- “’Jolie Bon,’ ‘San Antonio Rose’ all ran together on those old sawdust floors by Saturday’s first light,” he sings, acknowledging the dance halls and honky tonks of his early years.
A terrific song, followed by eleven more—no filler. With plenty of pedal steel (Corby Schaub), Worthy Cause is that seldom encountered gem, a pure country album.
Richard’s ability to reveal truths with lyrical straightforwardness is on display through songs including “Love Anyway” (“People hurt people every day”) and “My Name” (“With what I believe and what is right, I can sleep just fine at night.”)
A troika of songs mid-set provide the emotional spine of Worthy Cause, revealing diverse hues of Richard’s songwriting. “Fredericksburg” is sentimental without overly-obvious trappings, “Waters Rise” acknowledges strength revealed in the most hopeless of situations, and “The Big and The Little Hand” evokes the past in an emotionally charged, relatable manner.
The back cover of the CD package shows the singer pensively gazing into the distance, posed uncomfortably at what appears to be a kitchen table, guitar resting across his body, pencil absently erasing lyrical miscues from a yellow pad. Richard appears to be wrestling with these constraints, his leg unnaturally slung across the table: just let me alone to do what I do, his eyes and shadowed face plead.
Musically, no such disconnect exists: it all flows, each song working its way into the next, revealing truths, honesty, hope, and experience at every turn. Like Ben Bullington before him, Richard is the musical poet next door, the guy you might not expect to find his way into your musical soul. Worthy Cause, indeed.
RIYL: Richard Dobson, Bobby Charles, Larry Jon Wilson, Jack Ingram, Guy, Townes, and Joe.