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REVIEW: Austin English “Willie Nelson T-Shirt” Single

If you’re a country music fan who feels like the Nashville establishment has been letting you down a little too often lately, you’re not alone. Where a lot of country’s formerly-trusted sources are resting on their laurels in 2020, indie artists like Austin English aren’t accepting the status quo when making new music. English’s new single, “Willie Nelson T-Shirt,” takes the fundamentals of old school country and redresses them with a much-needed pop/rock swing that invites an added kick into the groove, and if you love honky-tonk as much as I do, it couldn’t be arriving at a much better time than the present. 

One of the first things that grabbed my attention in “Willie Nelson T-Shirt” was its striking beat, which is controlled more by English’s singing that it is the percussion. While this might seem like a complicated way to construct a swaying groove, it’s actually rather smart when taking into account how forceful a melodic presence it helps to promote in the chorus. We’re never given the choice to slow down here – from the moment the band starts to play, we’re made to dance along to the beat as though we were hearing a live band in a roaring roadhouse somewhere. 

Just like a fine slab of Texas BBQ, the lead vocal in this track is rich and smoky but doesn’t steal any of the thunder away from the wallop that the other components here have to offer listeners. The band has got a lot of punch in their play, and while English is a captivating force to be reckoned with up front, I don’t know that his performance would feel quite as rousing and raucous were he backed by a folkier group of musicians than the set he’s been afforded for this particular release. 

MORE ON AUSTIN ENGLISH: https://www.austinenglishmusic.com/

There’s definitely a strong Bakersfield influence in Austin English’s sound, and this is primarily what makes me think he’d be a killer live act. The potential for an extended jam within “Willie Nelson T-Shirt” is off the charts, and if given a packed concert hall full of country music fans, I think this is one player who wouldn’t have any problem tailoring his composition to the energy and needs of the crowd. He’s got a vibe similar to Garth Brooks but with a purer appreciation of the western aesthetic in his music, and that’s something country has desperately needed in 2020. 

You don’t have to be the biggest country music enthusiast around to appreciate the electric Americana that Austin English is bringing to the table this summer, but for those of us who live and die by the best the genre has to offer, this is absolutely one of the better tracks you can get your hands on right now. “Willie Nelson T-Shirt” doesn’t overexploit any of the core themes that make its artistic narrative as endearing now as it was some sixty years ago when Johnny Cash was ruling over the charts – it simply reminds us of their virtues through a wholeheartedly contemporary melodic homage. 

Written by Colin Jordan, posted by Mindy McCall

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