Album Review: Tyminski’s ‘Southern Gothic’
Dan Tyminski, the musician behind the project, is a 14-time Grammy award winner and 25-year member of Alison Krauss’ Union Station. Additionally, he has contributed guitar and harmony to projects by Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Kenny Chesney, among others. Not to mention his vocals are featured on Avicii’s massively successful pop hit “Hey Brother” and he also provided the singing voice for George Clooney’s character in O Brother, Where Art Thou? A well versed musician, Tyminski is no newcomer.
Tyminski describes his project as an album that holds a mirror to society without judgment or opinions. He co-wrote each of the 13 musically diverse tracks and worked with a range of A-list songwriters including Sarah Buxton (“Stupid Boy”), Josh Kear (“Need You Now”), Cary Barlowe (“American Honey”), Andrew Dorff (“Neon Light”), and Southern Gothic producer Jesse Frasure (“Dirt On My Boots”). As a result, the album is a versatile masterpiece both lyrically and musically.
“You can listen to it and absolutely ride along and not really have to make a huge investment,” Tyminski says in a statement. “But if you want to spend a little more time and really think about what the lyric says, there’s a message, and if you really want to look at the double meanings, and the hidden meanings behind a lot of the lyric, it will feed you.”
Upon first listen, it is easy to get entranced by the beautiful and sometimes eerie musical accompaniment. Further spins of the album, however, give a much darker and introspective view of society through the unique storylines and Tyminski’s captivating tenor. The album kicks off with the swampy title track. Instantly, the song’s vivid lyrics and Tyminski’s memorable vocals draw the listener in.
“Black bird on the old church steeple / Spanish moss hanging in the setting sun . . . We’ve got a church on every corner so why does heaven feel so far away,” he questions alongside enchanting percussion.
On the atmospheric “Breathing Fire” Tyminski’s sings of a tent revival with rollicking production and soaring string instruments making the listener feel like she is actually there. Meanwhile, “Gone” switches gears with riveting percussion and sultry beats that bring to mind that of a R&B song. Tyminski’s yearning vocals on “Gone” have him distraught when he learns someone he loved has moved away. “I heard you moved from our little town / And I’m going to miss seeing you around,” he sings.
The album’s pace picks up with the old-timey doo-wop vibe of “Temporary Love” and later on the Dobro-driven “Perfect Person” where Tyminski cleverly compares his love interest to a methamphetamine. “You’re no good for me / Like a methamphetamine / I sold my soul and everything I own / To hold you close and keep me stoned,” he croons.
While he excels on the upbeat numbers like the hopeful “Good For Your Soul,” it is the slowed ballads that leave the greatest mark. On the morbid and eerie “Devil Is Downtown,” Tyminski discusses the highs and lows that many often face in life. A metaphor for the choice we all have, to either follow the light or choose darkness, it’s a riveting song that keeps the listener intrigued. “If you’re searchin’ / If you’re lookin’ for a change / Go where you can see the stars / And they don’t seem so far away / But if you’re hurtin’ and you need to kill the pain / The devil is downtown,” he advises.
Southern Gothic is a blend of many genres and musical influences. While there are certainly country and bluegrass moments, the pop and R&B flavors of his past also make their way into the 13 tracks. It is the lyrics and storylines, though, that borrow the most from the country genre and fans of story songs and advanced musicianship will surely allow Tyminski’s release a permanent place in their music collection.