Music, Pop Culture, Style/ Beauty

Liam Purcell and Cane Mill Road Release New Single

The warm pastoral feel of Liam Purcell and Cane Mill Road’s new single “Homesick for Virginia” does an excellent job of capturing the high lonesome country blues sound of traditional bluegrass. It pulls that off without ever clumsily aping any specific performers, though I hear a lot of influence from The Stanley Brothers’ earliest songs pervading its lyrics and arrangement. Their ability to transmute such influences, however, into an individual artistic language all their own serves them in good stead. There are reference points, yes, but “Homesick for Virginia” is ultimately much more than a loving nod to traditional bluegrass. It’s cut from their heart and has a distinctive personal touch.

Lead singer and songwriter Colton Kerchner joins Purcell, Rob McCormac, Jacon Smith, and Ella Jordan for this track. The group has several past accomplishments under their belt, namely the success of “Crooked as You Go”, and frankly feels and sounds as if they’ve barely scratched the surface of their obvious capabilities, even with “Homesick for Virginia”. It’s a thoroughly winning tune on every level.

Much of the listener’s focus will fall on Kerchner’s singing. He is an emotive vocalist without ever lathering anything too thick and captures the song’s “lost highway” weariness without the questionable benefits of studio manipulation or cheap emotion. The slightly mournful quality he manifests with his voice finds ideal partners in the band’s instrumental contributions. You get the ready sense that each player is a near virtuoso in this genre, yet they play as an unit with no single performer attempting to grab the instrumental spotlight.

The writing is another high point. Kerchner’s take on the well-worn tale of a naïve country bumpkin seduced by the blandishments of fame and beauty will be familiar to longtime fans of the genre and he invokes those tropes without ever wearying such listeners. I’ve heard this story before and yet, in Kerchner’s hands, it sounds autobiographical, yet never so specific as to render it obscure and dilute its impact. Virtually any adult over thirty can relate to how far life can take us away from our first principles. We all fall short of the glory we envision.

It’s this world-weariness, lightly accented, that makes the song such a winner for me. Purcell and Cane Mill Road are never heavy-handed with it. Instead, they deftly balance gravitas with entertainment in such a way that it makes for a complete listening experience. It never drags on the listener’s sensibilities. Keeping it at a reasonable length, less than three minutes is an enormous boon for the song’s fortunes as well.

It’s an excellent introduction to Liam Purcell and Cane Mill Road’s latest opus and holds up under repeated listens. This successful musical partnership shows no signs of exhausting its potential any time soon and the latest effort likewise illustrates the considerable life left in this style of music. It communicates life’s realities without any pretentiousness and bewitches us early on with its easy-going, even elegant, musical spell. This one is definitely a keeper.

Troy Johnstone

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