Ryan Culwell may not be a household name yet, but CMT Edge debuted the video for his new track this week, “Red River,” saying it “conveys the song’s foreboding feel perfectly, like something bad is always just around the corner.”
Could Culwell be the next break-out star of country and Americana music?
On March 3, the West Texas songwriter, Culwell, will release Flatlands, his first album in more than eight years. The album is on Lightning Rod Records, putting him in company with the likes of Jason Isbell, Billy Joe Shaver, and Amanda Shires. CMT Edge is hardly the only one heaping praise on the former Texas boy who moved to Nashville to pursue his singing career.
Guitar World Acoustic Nation called “Never Gonna Cry,” the first single from Flatlands, “masterfully crafted and artfully delivered.” The Bluegrass Station premiered the audio track of “Red River,” and Kelly McCartney went even further in his praise of Ryan Culwell.
“Like Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Rodney Crowell, Nanci Griffith and so many others before him, Ryan Culwell wears his heritage on his sleeve, right next to his heart. It’s a song as haunting and hopeless as the Texas Panhandle itself.”
Culwell was born in Perryton, Texas, and spent most his life in a small dust bowl town surrounded by roughneck oilfield men. In 2006, Culwell released his debut album, but quit music shortly thereafter because of his fears of creating a story for his daughters about “the woes of west Texas bars or a recounting of daddy’s touring history.”
“Red River” certainly conveys a feeling of lonely desolation reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen‘s Nebraska era, but set in the vast emptiness of rural Texas. But how does Culwell describe the new album?
“Listening to my music is like watching ‘No County For Old Men’… all the emptiness and violence will either scare you away or you’ll find yourself alone at 3 a.m. with it on repeat.”
Ryan Culwell says he wrote Flatlands for his father and brother, because they are “tough people.” He says he is proud of that, but doesn’t feel being tough is enough to save you in this world.
For the video, he knew he wanted someone who could see his native state the way he does, tapping Amarillo native Ben Rollins to direct the clip.
“I’m proud that we were able to show the Texas Panhandle the way it really is — good and bad.”
Ryan Culwell will perform as an official showcasing artist the the 27th Annual International Folk Alliance Conference on February 20 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Flatlands Track List:
2) Never Gonna Cry
4) I Think I’ll Be Their God
6) Red River
7) I Will Come For You
8) Piss Down In My Bones
9) Won’t Come Home
[Photo via Lightning Rod Records]