Returning to social media with a “divorced” status is catnip to incels from high school and rando friend-of-friend fuck boys. This is how my quarantine started in spring of 2020. Messages from strangers wanting to get to know me better while simultaneously talking down to me about music. The only good thing to come of these inevitably blocked conversations was my introduction to Nick Shoulders. A don’t-call-me-country, country musician from the Ozarks. With yodeling vocals that rival Roy Orbison or Slim Whitman, and the guitar skills to flawlessly pull off a surf cover of The Stooges “No Fun”. The music of Nick Shoulders amplifies the nostalgia I feel every spring for the rural Midwest. Dreaming of running barefoot on gravel roads and chasing lighting bugs.
I’m incredibly critical about modern country, having grown up in the cornfields on the Iowa/Missouri border. One easily tires of trendy mullets and embroidered western shirts on art students idolizing white trash aesthetics. Nick Shoulders is anything but new wave redneck, challenging perceptions of what punk and country are and how they overlap. Acknowledging ancestral sins and noting how we’ve veered far from the righteous path with greed and “progress”.
Putting the ‘try’ in ‘country’.
Home on the Rage is Nick Shoulders’ 3rd album, sans a full band backing him. Bare bones tracks of his eerie howls and coyote-like yips over guitar. Beginning with the song and first single, “Turn on the Dark”. It tips off the listener that this release is much heavier than Lonely Like Me or Okay, Crawdad. It’s an exploration of a hateful heritage blossoming into apathy and hypocrisy with lyrics like,
“How can the land of the free be the home of the slave?”
Home on the Rage is a smothered rage of isolation as Nick makes himself right at home in these shadows. Picked apart and examined closely in quarantine. Haunting whistles to the boogers and haints of the wilderness, sharing their pain and loneliness as history repeats itself.
“Every war is a rich man’s war and every fight is a failure.”
Home on the Rage offers one dirge right after another. Each mourning the pre-Covid19 world left behind and the melancholy hope that we can do better. The album closes with “Twice as Bright”, a relatable ballad of helplessness. Leaving you at the crossroads to face the deep chasm of mistrust and the strength to move forward.
Home on the Rage is available on all streaming platforms as of April 20th.