2017 CD REVIEW
HAPPY ENDINGS (RCA)
OLD DOMINION DREAM OF A BRAVER NEW WORLD
“I wonder if Jack and Diane ever made it/ after the drums and the guitars all faded/ was the best they could do good enough/ or did the heartland just swallow them up/ how did my mom and my dad ever do it/ what am I gonna tell my kids when they see/ all of this bullshit that goes down on TV/ when the whole world is down on its luck/ I gotta make sure they keep their chin up.” - No Such Thing As A Broken Heart - Matthew Ramsey-Trevor Rosen-Brad Tursi-Jesse Frasure.
The quintet took its name from historic home state Virginia but Old Dominion write about a much wider world of the future.
Old Dominion topped Billboard mainstream country charts on debut with second album Happy Endings that followed big selling 2015 debut disc Meat And Candy.
It was propelled by highly accessible video clips on Nu Country TV and way beyond.
But dig beneath the gloss and discover why band members succeeded as songwriters long before forming a vibrant vehicle to capitalise on their talents.
The band's latest hit No Such Thing as a Broken Heart - penned by band members Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Brad Tursi and prolific hit writer Jesse Frasure - was created after the June 2016 Orlando shootings that claimed the lives of 50 people including 29-year-old gunman Omar Mateen.
Ramsey said the Orlando tragedy didn't provide the song's initial inspiration - instead it was a conversation involving uplifting messages they hope to pass to the next generation.
“We didn't really have any inspiration for the song honestly,” Ramsey revealed.
“There was no title or anything. That day when we wrote it, the first thing I said was, ‘I wonder if Jack and Diane ever made it.' And then it became this discussion. The best songs come out of a discussion when you're talking, you're all kind of writing at the same time, and you're in this therapy session. This song became that sort of write where we just kept spitting out lines of things we would want to say to our kids or we would want to say to ourselves.”
Old Dominion uses Happy Endings as salient signpost to demonstrate desires for music longevity - not just writing for radio, TV and chart success.
“The goal was to write the best songs we could, narrow them down to some form that we all could agree on and feel good about showing the world where we are,” Ramsey explained.
“We just wanted to make something we thought sounded cool and be proud of it.”
Since the album release natural disasters flooding the Caribbean, Cuba, Gulf Of Mexico, Texas, Florida, Europe, Asia and way beyond have provided fertile fodder for writing.
So has the North Korean military madness and the Trump typhoon.
But the deaths of Texan singing actor Don Williams at 78 and Montgomery Gentry singer-songwriter Troy Gentry at 50 in a tragic helicopter accident en route to a New Jersey gig the same day - September 8 - impacted the quintet at a recent concert.
Old Dominion covered Montgomery Gentry's My Town - title track of the duo's third studio album - that peaked at #5 in June of 2002.
The band also covered Williams 1978 hit Tulsa Time - his eighth chart topper - written by Danny Flowers and cut by Eric Clapton, Reba McEntire and others.
Williams - whose most recent Melbourne concert was at Dallas Brooks Hall in 1995 - announced his retirement in March 2016, after releasing his final album, Reflections , in 2014.
Gentry and Georgian helicopter pilot James Evan Robinson died when their chopper crashed en route to a concert at a resort at the Flying W airport in Medford , New Jersey .
Troy and duo partner Eddie Montgomery had just recorded their ninth album and planned to perform songs from it at the concert.
We honour both Williams and Gentry, whose duo's music was a popular staple on Nu Country TV , later this month and early October.
STARS IN THE CITY
“See the stars in the city/ she sees a diamond when the world sees dust/ finds the glitter in the gritty/ I know I ain't much but/ that girl sees something nobody else can see/ when she sees something in me/ yeah she could see the stars in the city.” - Stars In The City - Matthew Ramsey-Trevor Rosen-Brad Tursi-Josh Osborne.
Ramsey also credits another Virginian, whose Australian tour included the CMC Rocks The Snowys 2010 festival at Thredbo, as a big influence.
“For me, Phil Vassar was a big reason I moved to town. He took me under his wing and helped me through the first few years of being here,” Ramsey, 39, revealed.
“Once we formed as a band and started making some headway, Kenny Chesney has definitely played a huge role in helping us along. Any of these artists that cut the songs that we wrote.”
Ramsey and Brad Tursi co-wrote Chesney hit Save It for a Rainy Day.
A breakfast meeting prompted the quintet to recruit dual Grammy winning recent Australian tourists Little Big Town for Stars In The City.
“One morning, I had to meet our producer for breakfast and Little Big Town singer Karen Fairchild was in there,” Ramsey explained.
“We talked for a second. And then we had to go into the studio and work on that song - that night, I got on the bus and was listening to the mix of it, I had my eyes closed and for whatever reason my day was going through my head. It popped into my head that they would be perfect for those parts and would add so much. We didn't honestly think they would do it.”
In the song a couple almost hits another car while making a U-turn on a city street, causing the driver to spill coffee on his jeans.
He thinks they're ruined but his female passenger says, “No, they're better now. It's just a matter of perspective. It's the little imperfections that make them unique.”
SHOE SHOPPING, HOTEL KEYS AND NEW YORK AT NIGHT
“Yeah the song comes on and I sing out loud/ and there ain't no road that I can't go down/ and I don't think twice when I pass your house all the time/ yeah the rain just rolls right off my back/ and I don't get caught in the same old traps/ I can hear your name and fall asleep just fine/ yeah the world don't revolve around you/ not everything's about you.” - Not Everything's About You - Matthew Ramsey-Trevor Rosen-Brad Tursi-Andrew Dorf.
Shoe Shopping , accompanied by a foot fetish video, exploits metaphors for love in the street and its results.
The video takes the focus off the actors' faces and onto the soles of their feet.
It's a soft shoe shuffle of a different kind - from street shoes worn at a first meeting to the bowling shoes of a first date and the shoes being removed for passion.
The legs of a couple dance, date, get engaged and say “I do” and then create a much smaller pair of shoes from the fruits of their love.
Yes, the magic of a video featured on Nu Country TV , to reinforce the storyline.
It's a prelude to Hotel Key that is more about love above the street and beyond the public gaze.
"We love feel-good songs,” Ramsey explained.
“Sometimes you just want to put on something that makes you smile. It's a big part of who we are, but we definitely wanted to show that we were capable of writing more than just fun, party tunes. We think we have the potential to be around for a long time. To stick around you have to have meaningful songs."
Old Dominion extend that urban love theme with New York At Night - “girl you're like a model on a Soho street,
walking on air like you own it/ it's like I'm sipping on a bottle in a penthouse suite/ you're lighting me up and I'm glowing.”
The band crosses genders with female power driven Be With Me - “you could be the president/you would get my vote/you could be the captain of whatever floats your boat.”
Old Dominion also explore an assertive edge in Not Everything's About You .
“There's these real organic-sounding songs on there like Not Everything's About You ,” Ramsey explained.
"I think that is a huge representation of who we are as a band, with the harmonies and the music style of that song. That really sounds like a band to me. No matter who you are, where you live or your current status, people both old and young face more challenges than ever," Ramsey says of the band's eclectic music and reflection of society.
It's in the face of those challenges and standing at the edge of fear that we have to remain positive. Focus on the light that comes from positivity instead of being swallowed up. Work hard at doing what you feel is right. Don't be scared. Live life like there's no such thing as a broken heart."
Written In The Sand and Still Writing Songs About You are hedonistic hymns while lethal love fuels A Girl Is A Gun.
So why did the band choose Still Writing Songs About You?
"Still Writing Songs About You hits me every time,” Ramsey recalled.
“For some reason, I really feel that song every time we play it. I just love the sound of it, and I feel like everybody probably has that person that they never fully forget or never can get past. Even if they're not broken up, even if they're married, it's like, man, you are still the person that this song is about or will always remind me of. It doesn't necessarily mean you're broken up or you're together - everybody has that person that they will be hung up on forever .”
Old Dominion has mastered mood swings with panache - hook heavy live finale Can't Get You is a vast contrast to pathos anchored open ended love lament So You Go .
“The beach where you met is a five hour drive/ you know that you won't be sleeping tonight so you go/ the ocean's just water, the beach is just sand/ none of it matters, she ain't holding your hand so you go.”