When hearing the name Trent Dabbs, many may first associate him as the father of the musical collective Ten Out of Tenn (TOT). The brainchild of Dabbs and his wife, this collective brings together ten up-and-coming Nashville artists who tour together and support one another. In an ever changing music world, this brand is smart business, but even more so brings what music should be to the ears and eyes of listeners.
Dabbs is at the forefront of valiantly bringing quality music to those searching for it, not just with TOT, but as a solo artist as well. And quality is exactly what he brings with the release of his sixth full-length record, ‘Southerner’. After spending some time with ‘Southerner’, which dropped on February 22, 2011, this reviewer was struck with two recurring thoughts: this is an album meant for a road trip, and this is an album that could, or better yet, should, be the soundtrack for a film. Dabbs’ ‘Southerner’ could easily follow in the footsteps of Alexi Murdoch’s songs, which comprised the majority of the soundtrack of Away We Go.
The album weaves meaningful stories of Dabbs’ southern life, with songs ranging from upbeat “blast the stereo” road music, to “pull over to shoulder” soul-searching tunes. The first song, “Leave to See,” begins with the lyrics, “Finally lifting off, leaving the world behind/ I take the window seat so all I see is sky/ But one thing on my mind, miles below/ Tell me I’m not up here all alone.” As Dabbs hits the refrain he sings, “Why do I, why do I have, to leave to see?” The song is so fitting for those who have left some place behind only to realize its true value.
“Don’t Blame Love,” the third track on the album, is a catchy number, sure to get a foot tapping with each drum beat. Layers of guitar and percussion help keep the upbeat rhythm progressing as Dabbs intones, “So don’t blame love for all of this/ Don’t blame love, for what it is/ No it can’t help itself, it can’t help itself, no it can’t help it.”
As the album continues, Dabbs both looks to God in “Me and God” and pays homage to musical icon Neil Young, in the appropriately titled track, “Neil Young.” Dabbs strays a bit from his pop tones in “Neil Young,” and highlights rock influences. Heavy on electric guitar, this track is the one a fan wants to hear live. Dabbs’ lyrics nod to his musical predecessors; “A lot of things ain’t what they used to be/ Can’t pick up the sounds the ones before us leave/ It won’t reach the heart if it ain’t in the blood/ I want to be somebody’s Neil Young.” The song continues in that vein, bringing heart and soul back to today’s music.
The first official video from Southerner is the dark and urgent “Follow Suit.” The song acts as a challenge, “Do your best to get the best of me/ Nothing in my blood is ever gonna follow suit.” The undercurrent of breaking restraints is portrayed in a thoughtful, but uncomfortable light. Sometimes a person has to get down and dirty, see to the bare bones, heighten a sense of uncomfortable nakedness, and make a few enemies along the way in order to stay true to self.
The ten track album ends with its title track. “Southerner” is an all consuming song. The composition, both lyrically and instrumentally is simple and utterly brilliant. This song radiates pure exquisiteness. Honestly speaking, this Yankee writer has never once wished to live below the Mason Dixon line, but promptly reconsidered after hearing the lyric, “One thing no man deserves, is the love of a southerner.”
As a whole, Southerner offers a listener a range of songs from simple to complex. This is an album you need to have in your car. After three weeks of listening, Southerner is rated road trip approved (and seat dancing encouraged). Exceptional job, Mr. Dabbs.
Written by Linda Turk