River Town Review - One Stop Country

April 8, 2016

When you’re on the hunt for true country music, it’s a no brainer that you will have to dig way down past what the current mainstream Top 40 is giving to you.

Some will turn to Texas, while others go right to their old favorites and stick to the classic songs they’ve known and loved for years.

With his debut album River Town, newcomer EJ Cox looks to push aside any beliefs that one may have of today’s younger generation abandoning the roots of the genre as he holds them close to his heart and allows his influences of Waylon, Willie, Haggard, Cash, and Keith Whitley to shine through like a light of hope.

Led by "River Town,” the title track and lead single that has earned him some attention at country radio, Cox pulls us into a listening experience that is built for a Friday night dance hall crowd as it relies as much on two-stepping rhythms as it does its solid lyrics.

He pulls us into a tale of falling in love with “Long Ride.” However, what initially appears so simple on the surface, turns the page as he makes you listen all the way to the end to realize that he’s cleverly just used a car ride to lead you to a marriage proposal. This one change gives “long ride” a double meaning of driving for miles and miles and also of spending one’s entire life together.

The namecheck to George Jones is a great nod to the past, and it is something he also does on “Halfway Through A Handle” when he mentions Faron Young and his hit “Hello Walls” as he sings us through his lonely moments after a breakup and trying to figure out how to deal with them.

But, Cox doesn’t only rely on country music’s legends and their influences on him to get our attention.

He also tosses in an up-tempo flare, complete with horns, that recalls the late 1950’s era of rock-n-roll on “Soon.”

However, the hidden gem of the album comes in its final song.

“Leave This War Behind” is very topical as it speaks to a hurting world in a call to action way when he proposes that we stop being hateful and filled with selfish pride, and instead, start to think of our neighbors first and what we can do for them; regardless of their status in life – rich or poor.

The instrumentation is built around the classic sounds of fiddle and slide guitar, but Cox is very careful to only use the music as an accompaniment and not the driving force of the songs. By doing this, he allows his voice and lyrics to never be overpowered making them the defining characteristic of the album as a whole.

Love, from falling in it to having to deal with the heartbreak of losing it, dominate the overall theme throughout this 7-song project. Because these emotions are so universally understood, the songs become that much more relatable to any one listening.

While a first effort is usually hard to judge an artist on, this one offers a picture perfect window into what EJ Cox is all about.

These songs are as real as real can be and his songwriting is top notch as he designs his crafty lyrics to perfectly paint each picture, whether he is bringing you into a moment as he did on “Long Ride,” or tugging on your emotions with “Halfway Through A Handle.”

For those country music lovers that are yearning for a truer country sound, you need to look no further than EJ Cox and his debut album River Town.