Brent Cobb Honors Wayne Mills, Welcomes Charlie Worsham On ‘Providence Canyon’

 

Brent Cobb. Photo: Don Van Cleave

On Providence Canyon, Brent Cobb’s second album for the Low Country Sound/Elektra label, the periphery of Cobb’s sound develops a distinctive edge, the guitar lines and vocals tinged with soul, funk and distortion, while the rhythms grind with authority.

That evolution from his mostly relaxed Shine On Rainy Day album came of equal parts exploration and necessity, as Cobb has been on the road for the past year, opening shows for Chris Stapleton, Jamey Johnson and Anderson East.

“We went to playing 20,000 [capacity] rooms, and we all watched Chris’ show every night. I wanted to play something a little funkier and a little more rockin’ maybe but I didn’t want to lose the lyrical content. Luckily I only know how to write one way,” Cobb says. “We just went in the studio and tried to put a pretty sick back beat on it and I think all we added was an extra guitar and organ and background vocals to everything. I think if we took all those things away it would be pretty similar to everything else.”

Cobb brings along several well-known Nashvillians for the new project, including cousin and ace producer Dave Cobb, as well as Kristen Rogers, who provided the fervent harmonies scattered across Providence Canyon’s 11 tracks.

Warner Music Nashville artist Charlie Worsham offers guitar work on two songs, teaming with Mike Harris for “.30-06,” and “If I Don’t See Ya.”

“We set them up and they had never met each other,” Brent Cobb says of the recording process. “Dave had just seen Charlie play live for the first time, and I’ve known Charlie for years. Dave and I were talking and we said, ‘Man what if we called him right now to see if he can come over here and maybe him and Mike could meet and the moment they meet they have to swap guitar solos on a song together without even thinking about it?’ So that’s what they did and it was awesome. It was like a ‘guitarmageddon’ in the studio the moment they met.”

Like Cobb’s previous work, the heart of Providence Canyon is steeped in authentic depictions inspired by personal moments, whether memories of a childhood spent exploring the red clay walls of the actual Providence Canyon in Georgia on the album’s title track, or that ever-present desire to return to one’s roots, noted in the track “Come Home Soon.”

Perhaps nowhere on the album do those depictions conjure more heartache and celebration than on “King Of Alabama,” written in honor of another favorite among Nashville’s music community, the late singer-songwriter Wayne Mills, who died following a violent encounter in 2013.

 

Cobb was first introduced to Mills by way of Jason “Rowdy” Cope, who is now part of band The Steel Woods. Earlier in his career, Cope played in Jamey Johnson’s band, when Johnson was opening shows for Mills. Mills invited Cobb to be part of the Nashville songwriters showcase Alabama Line.

“He started introducing me to people and was so supportive. Wayne would talk and people would listen. So when we lost him it was a big deal to a lot of people,” Cobb recalls.

Inspiration for “King Of Alabama” came as Cobb’s thoughts turned to Mills’ son Jack, who was 7 years old when Mills died. “I was thinking about being 7 and growing up without your dad,” Cobb says. “I remember I didn’t want to pretend like I knew him better than anybody. I was down there crying when I was writing that just thinking about his son and I remember hitting Rowdy up after I wrote that first verse. I tried to get him to write it with me, but Rowdy was way too close to the source and he couldn’t bring himself to do it.”

Cobb brought the idea to fellow writer and Alabama native Drake White, before ultimately finishing the song with Adam Hood.

“Drake and I batted it around for a few hours and we couldn’t get anywhere on it. I had a specific direction I knew I wanted to write it in and I didn’t want to veer too far off of that. Drake had a different idea—not in a bad way or anything—and that’s the way our day went. I wound up getting with Adam Hood. He had played Alabama Line with us every week, so I sent the first verse and chorus to him and he sent me a verse back and we kind of developed it from there. I remember calling Drake and asking if he would be ok if me and Adam Hood finished it and he was perfectly ok with it.”

Though Hood and Cobb co-wrote the track, they aren’t the only two with co-writer credit on the song.

“I asked Adam what he thought about adding Jack Mills, Wayne’s son, as a co-writer because the song never would have been written without the thought about Jack. He knew Wayne’s widow better than I did so he reached out to her. I sent her the song and she gave us permission to add him as a co-writer. He were able to link him up with Wayne’s old publishing company through BMI. Any little bit that this song makes, a third of it will go into Wayne’s publishing company and to his family.”

Cobb predicts this won’t be the last time music fans will see the name Jack Mills on a song credit. “I’ll say right now, Jack may not know it, but I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the music world. You can’t be cut from that cloth and go through what he’s gone through, and not come out the other side doing something. Someday he’s going to have a lot to say, I believe.”

Cobb’s Providence Canyon is out now on Low Country Sound/Elektra Records.

 

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Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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