According to Midland’s bass guitarist Cameron Duddy, their latest — and third — album, The Last Resort, looked like it would be the start of a precedent set for the band where they recorded albums while touring.
However, COVID-19 ensured that would not be the case. Instead, they were able to approach this collection of material with a refreshed and renewed viewpoint.
The Tennessean caught up with the band at the Nashville outpost of fashion brand H Bar C. The Men’s Creative Director for the Brooklyn-born and western apparel wearer-beloved brand is Midland’s guitarist, Jess Carson. Being in familiar environs just 12 hours after the CMT Music Awards allowed the hard-touring band to relax.
Ultimately, the band also being both refreshed and refocused aids the album.
“[COVID] allowed [Midland] to assess what we had accomplished over the past three years,” said Duddy. “If anything [that perspective] informed what we wrote and recorded.”
The 12-track album includes the title track, which owes a deep debt of gratitude to Jimmy Buffett’s relaxing guitar ballad, “pop-top, flip flop,” and “Margaritaville” vibes. Jon Pardi’s collaboration “Longneck Way To Go” could easily have slid into the soundtrack of the 1980 John Travolta star vehicle “Urban Cowboy” as the song oozing out of the jukebox as a patron fails at riding the mechanical bull at Gilley’s bar.
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It’s not a groundbreaking country release pushing sonic expectations. Nor is it a singer-songwriter diving Americana into alt-rock or soulful blues. Instead, this record is a straight-up, no chaser homage to big hats, more oversized buckles, and long necks of the coldest beer bottles.
Midland occupies the unique space of being an act both lauded and lampooned by critics. The band’s ability to conjure everything from The Eagles and Jimmy Buffett to George Strait to pretty much any artist who has worn a suit designed by Nudie Cohn and Manuel Cuevas while walking down Music Row is impressive.
Getting such slavish devotion to timeless eras in pop-aimed country music correct with Midland’s accuracy makes them easy targets for mockery. However, it’s also important to note that Duddy, when not playing basslines of songs like “Drinkin’ Problem,” is a music video director who has been lauded for his work on Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ clips for “Uptown Funk” and “24K Magic.” So often, a band feeling victimized by their success will take a moment to err in another direction.
“The three of us hold a special reverence for the artists who have informed us,” says the band’s lead singer, Mark Wystrach. He notes that “The Last Resort” is a success because it showcases the trio’s best attempt at using those influences to advance a sound that progresses styles familiar to devoted country aficionados into the modern era.
“This is a soundtrack to ‘The Last Resort,’ which has evolved from a place to [a lifestyle] we live now,” continues Wystrach. “We’ve designed a career for ourselves [at this point], where touring around Florida and living that lifestyle is attractive,” adds guitarist Jess Carson. “It’s crazy that it took us this long to get into this lane. It was always in the ether, and we pulled it down. We’ve planted a stake in [this type of sound], and I’m sure you’ll hear more of it from us.”
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Midland’s ‘The Last Resort’ brings timeless country vibes