Independent artist James Carothers displays a whiskey-soaked brand of country music and craggy vocals hardened from years of struggle and barroom performances. His style of singing and songwriting is more akin to the likes of Jamey Johnson, Steve Earle, and country’s famed Outlaws than to the hip-hop and rock-flavored country music favored by today’s radio listeners. The native Southerner was raised in the Tennessee dirt of Selmer, and recently relocated to Nashville after several years of living with his family in Los Alamos, N.M.
During a recent visit to the MusicRow office, Carothers demonstrated his witty, devil-may-care banter alongside acoustic versions of tracks from his project Honky Tonk Land.
“New Country Singers” highlights the disarming honesty and sharp observations in his songwriting. A lighthearted shot at “modern” country music, the tune questions the authenticity of today’s popular drinking songs: “They don’t get caught cheatin’/And they don’t wreck their cars/So I’ve come to the conclusion/That they don’t drink as much as me.”
Carothers penned each of the eight tracks on Honky Tonk Land, with the exception of “Trouble in Paradise,” which was written by his father and fellow songwriter, Jim Carothers.
“I always wanted to have something to keep me interested in music,” he says of his foray into songwriting. “You can observe all the funny behaviors of people in a way that they don’t know you are writing about them.”
The acoustic performance proved Carothers is equally deft at sarcasm and sentimentality, with a rendition of “Where Did We Come From,” a nostalgic song with lyrics about trading farms for big box stores, and outsourcing production. The song’s theme of contemplating the price paid for so-called progress could easily translate to today’s country music, making it a fitting finale for Honky Tonk Land.
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