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On the Rocks *
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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Greg Marrow (drums); Cameron Duddy, Jess Carson (background vocals).
  • Audio Mixer: Justin Niebank.
  • Recording information: Blackbird Studios, Nashville, TN; Emporium Studios, Nashville, TN; Maverick Studios, Nashville, TN.
  • Photographer: Harper Smith.
  • About halfway through their eponymous 2017 debut, Midland sing that their music isn't "Check Cashin' Country," a contention that might not quite square with the trio signing to Big Machine, one of the biggest labels in Nashville in the 2010s. Nevertheless, there's a grain of truth in that sentiment, as the group's debut On the Rocks is proudly out of step with the sounds of commercial country in 2017, containing nary a trace of electronics or hip-hop. Unlike other country throwbacks, Midland don't revive hardfloor honky tonk. They're bringing back the mellow, easy sounds of '80s country, sounding like a cross between Alabama, George Strait, and middle-aged Merle Haggard. On the Rocks also has a heavy dose of Dwight Yoakam -- he can be heard on the sly mariachi underpinnings of "At Least You Cried," and on the lean boogie of "This Old Heart" -- and that's the key to the group's success. Midland picked up on how Yoakam's magpie tendencies were strengthened by strong songcraft, and that lesson is evident throughout On the Rocks. With the assistance of producer Shane McAnally, the three members construct sturdy songs with a shimmering surface to match. Occasionally, the group seem to be winking at the past -- "Electric Rodeo" is a de facto tribute to "Rhinestone Cowboy"-era Glen Campbell -- but On the Rocks is anything but ironic. It's a warm, rich, and detailed love letter to a smooth style of country music that's fallen out of fashion. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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