Album Review – Brent Cobb’s ‘Shine On Rainy Day’

Author: Leon Blair

If there’s one name that everyone and their mother has been going crazy about for the past couple years, I would say it’s Dave Cobb. Now, I certainly believe it’s justified. After all, he’s produced some of my favorite albums of the past couple of years, and while he’s had some missteps, he’s been an overall excellent producer.

We’re not here to talk about Dave however. You see, Dave isn’t the only Cobb who’s been generating some buzz lately. That brings us to Brent Cobb, the cousin of Dave Cobb. That’s not the only reason we’re talking about him though. You see, Brent has been around the music scene for quite some time now penning songs for artists such as Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Kellie Pickler, David Nail, and Frankie Ballard. He released his debut album in 2006 with No Place Left To Leave and followed that up with a self-titled EP in 2012. Good luck finding either of those today though. You see, Brent’s obviously been working a long time to really find the creative magic he needed to come into his own as an artist, and with the rise of the indie scene like never before, now seemed like a great time to spread those wings.

​Actually, this isn’t even the first time I’ve talked about Brent on this blog. You see, he was one of the artists who helped contribute to Dave Cobb’s masterpiece project earlier this year titled Southern Family, an album that I consider to be the only true 10 out of 10 this year. Sure, his cut “Down Home” wasn’t exactly my favorite on the project, but there was still an exuberance in Brent’s performance that I really did appreciate. That’s not to mention that it really added a “southern” element to that album along with Shooter Jennings’ contribution. As such, I was more than happy to give his newest album, Shine On Rainy Day a listen, especially since I wanted to hear more of Brent as an individual artist. What did I find?

Well, this is a little bit tricky. You see, I can acknowledge that Shine On Rainy Day is a good album. There’s a comforting feeling to it all throughout, and there’s certainly a distinctive sound to this album. The problem is that I’m just not sure if a large chunk of it is for me, and that stands all across the album with vocals, production, and songwriting. Again, that’s not saying I think it’s bad, because there is a lot here that I do like. In the end however, I probably don’t connect as much to this album as much as other people will, and that’s okay. After all, these are just my thoughts.

So let’s start with the element that I can appreciate the most, the instrumentation and production. Now, much like Lori McKenna’s The Bird and the Rifle from earlier this year, Dave Cobb’s production style on this album favors a “less is more” approach. Acoustic grooves are the bedrock for a lot of this album, and that’s something I do like. The thing is, I’m just not sure that it really matches Brent’s style overall. There’s moments on the latter half of this album that aren’t afraid to add some real darkness and snarl, almost to the point of being visceral and ominous. Where that snarl comes in is on the final three tracks on this album. “Let The Rain Come Down” has a dark southern-rock vibe to it with some muddier guitar work and the backup singers really do a lot here to add some power to this song as well. Then you have “Down In The Gulley” with its minor key progression and once again, darker sound. That’s before we get to “Black Crow” with some fantastic slide guitar work courtesy of Jason Isbell.

Honestly, those three tracks are my favorites for a couple reasons, and one is the production. I honestly wish that the production could have been darker all around or at least have some more edge to it. “Diggin’ Holes” is another song I like for its playful guitar riffs, and “Country Bound” has a great, textured guitar solo in it. But then you get to tracks like “Solving Problems”, “South Of Atlanta” and the title track which are still good songs, let me stress that. They just feel like they could have more muscle to them. They just honestly aren’t tracks I’ll probably personally be coming back to.

Of course, when it comes to the slower or more restrained songs on this album, the production is not the only thing that I need to nitpick with here. That brings us to Brent Cobb as a vocalist. Look, I’ll be honest here and say that Brent’s voice isn’t exactly my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, he’s got a lot of passion and sincerity which do win over points with me, but from a pure vocal standpoint, he’s not my favorite. Now, this frustrates me as well, because I hate to criticize somebody for that. But, keep in mind these are only MY thoughts, and with that, there are moments where I actually do like his style a lot. This isn’t going to come as a surprise, but once again I find myself drifting towards the darker material on this album. Like I said, he’s got some real passion in his voice, and nowhere is that more apparent than on these songs. There’s not only some real bite and texture to the production on these tracks, but also his vocals as well, selling these songs with the energy they deserve. I’m not as wild about his vocals on the ballads on this album, but again, those are MY issues.

Now, the songwriting on this album falls right in line with the other elements of this album. There are moments that I like, and moments that don’t ring as much of a chord with me. Shine On Rainy Day is very much playing to a nostalgic feeling all throughout in terms of its writing. “Solving Problems” plays to that feeling very well as two friends just spend the day hanging out and talking to each other about life, music, and other topics both modern and older. “The World” is another nice track that finds a couple reminiscing how far they’ve come in their love, and really it’s the one ballad on this album that works for me for reasons I can’t explain.

Now, if I were to nitpick here, I would say that some of the themes pop up more than once in ways that don’t really make certain tracks stand out. Take “Diggin’ Holes” and “Traveling Poor Boy” for example. Both deal with a down on his luck narrator, but unlike the latter song, “Diggin’ Holes” stands out more for being lyrically tongue in cheek in its delivery as the narrator sort of acknowledges he screws up a lot. He isn’t afraid admit it either. Then you have tracks like “South Of Atlanta” and “Country Bound”. The latter is essentially the same song as the former as both deal with having an urge to return to one’s roots. Whereas “South Of Atlanta” sort of just paints a rosy picture about well, Atlanta, “Country Bound” at least goes a little further by adding an element of a story to it. The narrator in this song is struggling with who he is a person, and he needs to return to his roots to really find himself again. There’s a little more nuance in the framing on this one and a little more emotional intensity.

On that note of emotional intensity however, we’re going back to, surprise, surprise, the final three tracks of this album. Now, where the other seven tracks on this album don’t really opt for any real drama, these final three tracks are like a complete turn around, and honestly, I’ve been waiting to talk about the songwriting for these tracks. “Let The Rain Come Down” at its core is a post breakup song, but it’s a little bit more than that with some real detailed imagery and even darker lyricism. “Down In The Gulley” feels somewhat like a modern day “Copperhead Road” with its theme of running a secret family moonshine business and hiding it from the police. Then you have the absolutely sinister “Black Crow” which finds our male narrator wanting to redeem himself after a man goes to jail for a murder that the narrator actually committed. Like I said, you get Jason Isbell’s great guitar work here and you’ve got a great trifecta of songs here (even if “Black Crow” sort of just ends abruptly). Again, I really wish the album pushed more in this direction because I really liked every element of those songs.

But overall, while I definitely think that there are moments that could be improved on this album, I also think there’s a lot of potential here. Brent Cobb is a great songwriter, and even when he’s not inserting some real emotional intensity, he’s still a great songwriter overall. I think Dave Cobb could definitely add a little more spice to the production next time around, but as it is, this isn’t a bad album. If you like the soul side of country blended in with a little rock, you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy here, especially if you’re a fan of guys like Chris Stapleton. If anything, it proves that Dave isn’t the only Cobb worth paying attention to anymore, so with that, check this out.

Best Tracks: “Diggin’ Holes”, “Let The Rain Come Down”, “Down In The Gulley”, “Black Crow”, “Country Bound”
Worst Track: “Traveling Poor Boy”

(6/10)

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