Most of us have done a cross country road trip at least once, and you don’t forget it. Especially if it included a long stretch between the Rockies and the Mississippi, where time and distance create a kind of elasticity to your plan. Doing those trips over and over and over became the rehearsal space for long-haul truckers turned musical partners Nate Rylan and Chris Brooks. They used their nomadic experience, and the associated chance to see the country as a direct observer, to craft their second album, If Wishes Were Horses.
The title cut is a folksy, country ballad about the false hope that someone will change to your liking. Also in a country ballad style is I Let You Down (Again), but instead of folk influences it goes all in with a 70’s country lament that would have been an obvious George Jones tune. Passenger Blues has a lazy tempo in a bluesy story about living in the passenger seat of life. Or maybe it’s just about a car trip, where the “sunlight eating through the dashboard in my sunburned mind” is literal.
The uptempo songs on the record are strong as well. Abilene is a southern rocker about one or more of those long road trips. Easy Street gets you out on the dance floor of the classic honky-tonk, with its “used-to-be” and “ain’t-never-gonna” low-life patrons. Hands Off is a 70’s classic rocker in all its glory. It has 38 Special guitar riffs and Elton John piano vamps, all held together by a Bob Seger pounding beat, no doubt influenced by drummer Eddie Bayer’s time with Seger.
While there are some blues and rock around the edges, at its core If Wishes Were Horses is a classic, twangy country music album. All that windshield time with nothing but their thoughts and scratchy American radio stations produced a sound that’s instantly recognizable, but updated with stories accumulated along the journey. It’s been a while since I’ve heard old school country music like Rylan Brooks.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.