More than just an outstanding, no-frills sophomore album from a down-to-earth Texas singer/songwriter with serious backwoods cred, “Radioville” represents can-do spirit and DIY philosophy — not unlike the sustainable farming and light industry found on some communes back in the ’70s!
And speaking of the ’70s: According to the back cover, Simon Flory’s new release was recorded on a 1970s Neve console using low-wattage tube amps and vintage microphones, live to a rescued tape machine, without click tracks or post-production corrections.
And in true communal fashion, Flory’s friends helped him out: Marshall Terry (son of Eric Clapton guitarist George Terry) engineered and co-produced. The recording was done at the Shaman Shack, a former reefer truck turned NBC remote-feed truck that Terry converted into a studio parked in a warehouse on the east side of Austin.
Jody Suarez, Matt Roth and Dan Patrevito served as the core backup group (drums, bass and Wurlitzer, respectively) on the album’s five full-band tracks.
From Flory’s liner notes:
“The full band tracks were cut June of ’17 in the midst of a central Texas heat wave. We couldn’t all fit in the truck, so we ran a snake out to the back corner of the stagnant warehouse lit with a few floodlamps, but no talkback mic to the truck. We’d holler after takes, reviewing before we rewound over the track or kept it. We only had six inches of tape left over at the end.”
Among the other friends chipping in for Flory’s all-original set of tunes were roots music singer/guitarist/songwriter Charley Crockett; blues singer/guitarist Dylan Bishop; country songstress Summer Dean; Guy Clark protégé Noel McKay; and multi-stringed-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Brennen Leigh.
The songs on “Radioville” are like short stories, and that’s the point. In an interview with Voyage Dallas magazine, Flory says: “I don’t want to be a living museum piece of ‘roots’ music, I want to shed a little light on the struggle of real human lives, not caricature them. My goal is to tell stories that find a home and make an impact of positive change in someone’s life.”
Kickoff track “American Ancients,” according to Flory’s Facebook page, is “a song based on conversations with the homeless citizens of Texas.” Channeling one such citizen, he sings, “My touch is radiation on your fingertips. When you hand me spare change, I feel it.”
An inmate and his wife exchange letters in “County Fair,” a stripped-down duet with Dean. “I never meant to hurt nobody. But for $27, I will miss you always,” the convict tells her, as a mournful pedal steel provides an acoustic guitar’s sole accompaniment.
In the title song, a narrator with an intentionally exaggerated drawl sets the scene (“There’s an old bowling alley just wasting away, where I played my only 100-point game”) before launching into a progressively plaintive talking-blues dirge about being stuck in Radioville.
Perhaps the best case for listening to the album can be found in the liner notes’ foreword by Taylor W. Rushing, who did the cover art: “Introducing the world to the first proletariat, hillbilly, folk-art honest person’s concept album that transcends commodity!”
1. American Ancients
3. Hard Luck Kid
4. Station Agent
5. Appalachian Sky
6. First Gear
7. Barefoot Mule
8. County Fair
9. Just Like That
10. Soft Gravel Stone
Total time: 39:26