Paul Overstreet - Somewhere in the Caribbean
Scarlet Moon Records
Paul Overstreet, one of Nashville's most successful songwriters, with more than 35 top ten country hits to his credit, including the Grammy-award winning Forever And Ever, Amen and Love Can Build A Bridge, enjoyed a run of top ten country hits as a singer from 1987 through to 1991, then faded from the scene to concentrate on raising his family and follow his Christian beliefs. He had always specialised in low-key country moralistic tunes. The kind that creep up behind you with a velvet hammer to get a point across; sometimes even clobber you over the head. His songs were often flowery odes to love, faith and family. You wouldn't find any cheaters, beer-drinkers or all-night party-goers as leading players in Paul’s songs. Instead, his lyrics tell of husbands who love their wives, sons who respect their fathers and, common, everyday people who rely on goodness and faith to get them through life’s seemingly endless maze of complications. Lyrically, they were a far cry from today’s country music that champions beer drinkin’ rednecks, chasin’ scantily-clad women, and a shallow, good-time lifestyle.
This is Paul’s first album of ‘new’ recordings in more than a dozen years and it certainly wasn’t quite what I was expecting. One of the keys to longevity in the music business is the ability to continually deliver something musically fresh that makes the listener hear a familiar voice in a different light. In quite a change of direction, Paul Overstreet has created an album which can best be described as ‘trop-country’ filled mainly with upbeat, fun lyrics and a warm island feel by way of sighing steel guitars, jaunty rhythms and hypnotic percussive touches.
Musically, he makes it just enough like Jimmy Buffett to give goosebumps of recognition and gratitude and different enough to stand alone. Even Buffett Would Love It, a fond nod to the old Parrot-Head, works as a fitting tribute to the man who made this kind of good-time music his very own. The result is one of the very few records so far this year that has had me humming along after a few listens. Damn it, I feel like I’ve taken a trip through the Way Back Machine to Margaritaville in the summer of 1977, where everything was sunshiny breezy blue.
As is to be expected, all the songs are written or co-written by the singer, often with some of his long-time Music Row songwriting buddies including Allen Shamblin, Even Stevens, Aaron Barker and Scotty Emerick. Most will be familiar with Some Beach, the tongue-in-cheek hit that Paul and Rory Feek penned for Blake Shelton. In a similar rhythmic style is the escapism of Bad On The Beach; off-kilter, kitschy, and nothing but salty, sun-tanned fun. There’s more fun and frolics to be had in Cabo Camo, in which he offers up advice straight out of the what-happens-in-Vegas guidebook. In contrast, the melancholic and hazy, Somewhere In the Caribbean, is a bittersweet way to wind down the summer, as is the languid Takin’ It Easy, flowing with the deep melancholy of Paul’s vocals, alongside delicate harmonies and a rich pedal steel grandeur. In similar style is Making Some Waves, which has Paul’s actor son Chord Overstreet as co-writer, along with Scotty Emerick. Swaying gracefully between breezy and languid, and brimming with charm, this is a gorgeous lo-fi dreamy opus that’s sure to calm and soothe anyone within earshot.
Paul Overstreet proves once again his knack for creating music that feels at once familiar and innovative, music that both transcends and cements itself within country music’s rich cultural tome. Finding the right balance between the sparse and the electric is no mean feat, but he does it with a sun-bleached saloon authenticity. A true labour of love from a man who clearly knows how to write and use catchy hooks, hip vibes and lush melodies, he has crafted an immensely entertaining album about how a day on the beach can alleviate the tensions and challenges of everyday life. He's a musical version of a magician who doesn't mind showing how his tricks are done—yet still manages to charm and surprise. Songwriting this graceful and elemental is ripe for any season, so throw on a Hawaiian shirt and be transported sublimely to any beach that takes your fancy. Alan Cackett