They say alt-country is country music played with a punk aesthetic. Stephen Flatt has a slightly different idea; it’s southern rock with a bluegrass aesthetic. On his latest album, Cumberland Bones, Flatt leads with the Southern rock stories and anthemic, pump-your-fist sound. The bluegrass comes in via him recording this record not with a longstanding band, but with a who’s who of Nashville friends and pickers.
The twangier part of the record probably comes naturally for Flatt, who as the grand-nephew of a local legend grew up around the Nashville musical elite. White County Shine is a through-and-through bluegrass number about a multi-generational family business. El Camino blasts out a honky-tonk sound with a love story of two misfits running for the border. You Would Like To Hide is more of a country shuffle about being the responsible partner when the other one runs away.
The harder driving songs on the album are anchored by a trio of rockers. Talking Like the Devil is a twin lead guitar number about the siren song of a party girl. Hold You Tonight captures a tale from Flatt’s previous day job as a long haul trucker. One More Time circles back on the moonshine theme, updated to reflect running meth when “the boy’s got a batch cooked” to finance a better life. Although not quite as loud as some of the record, Logan Creek is a dark murder ballad with a twist at the end.
I can’t wrap this up without more of a mention about the musicians Flatt got to back him on this record. Kenny Vaughn on guitar. Grammy-winner Charlie Cushman on banjo. Both the CMA and IBMA 2020 fiddle players of the year contribute. Johnny Cash and Dan Auerbach bassist Dave Roe holds down the low end, and produced the album. So whether you’re just looking for some southern rock to crank the volume on, or want to sit back and appreciate some musical virtuosity, Cumberland Bones is a new release you need to check out.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.