The County Well is back with a new album on the Floating Records label. It’s titled simply Drink More. But first, for those not yet familiar with the act in question, a bit o’ background.
The County Well
The County Well is a self-styled “sonic-ally-experimental musical collaboration.” It was launched in Marin County, California and is now based in Idaho’s Wood River Valley. It was co-founded by producer Don Zimmer (guitar, and songwriting) and Moses Guest’s Graham Guest (lead vocals, banjo, pedal steel, keyboards, and guitar).
The current group roster includes performers from across the nation: vocalists Michaela French and Michael Batdorf (One Ton Pig), drummer Josh Kelly (Bruce Willis Band), bassist Lyle Evans (Chris leDoux), saxophonist Bob Hemenger, violinist Bill Panks, keyboardist Adam Rossi (Jeffrey Halford), and guitarists Paul Gregory and Mark Karan (Bob Weir’s Ratdog). Other artists credited with contributing to the project include singer-songwriter Jeffrey Halford (Jeffrey Halford & The Healers), musician Rob Reeves, recording artist Silas Remington, singer-songwriter Sabrina Roblin, and Hollis Zimmer.
The County Well’s signature sound is a musical mélange of multiple genres including (but not limited to) blues, country, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll.
Drink More is a 12 track album. It is a fitting follow up to their second songful serving, A Little Infinity which dropped in 2019 and their 2016 debut disc, Future Country. The former was fittingly released in conjunction with a new craft beer from the Sawtooth Brewery, Infinity Lager.
Track by Track
The album opens on the upbeat audio “Gifted Spirit.” It was obviously inspired by the actual process of songwriting. It speaks to that moment between success and committing a crime (or as a recent e-missive noted that “short euphoric time between triumph and breaking the law.” It features vocals by Guest.
The second selection is “Hope I Fall.” Michaela French debuts on lead vocals already adding a new approach and direction. It is a light, jazz-tinged song about love. While it’s an unsurprising topic, the song not only holds its own but almost seems too brief.
Not to be confused with the 1963 Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber composition made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter in 1967, this “Jackson” is an original composition by Guest and one of only two songs not written entirely by Zimmer. This track is an introspective, slower song-story about traveling down a favorite road and reflecting on one’s life.
It is followed by “Wigwam”, not to be confused with “Wamwig”, which appears later on this CD. Guest’s vocals remain solid on this fun ditty about the search for an elusive potential partner.
French shows what she can do once again on “Volume and Speed.” This is a country-tinted piece about perseverance and having the right attitude. The song’s perfect for pondering when a person’s plans are unexpectedly interrupted. It is, at times, both friendly and familiar.
“Big Country Love” introduces us to the vocal talents of Michael Batdorf. Co-written by Batdorf and Zimmerman, it has its own little funky identity. It’s what they call “a plush of groove.”
Guest returns to the mic on “Shimmy Shake.” This one is about a “unique person” who dances to the beat of her own drummer. She’s always “drunk and stoned”, but apparently quite fun to include in a song.
French returns on lead vocals with “Drinkin’ And Smokin’.” Here, in a slightly smoky song, she effectively reminds us all that “relationships are hard.” (True, but where would songwriters be without them?)
“Peruvian Lillies” features one last ample sample of Guest’s singing abilities. This slightly trippy tune takes on the topic of “your personal garden.”
Things take a different direction on the tune titled “Truck.” Here we hear what happens in a tuneful team-up featuring French and Batdorf.
Also included here is the previously mentioned “Wamwig.” This instrumental provides an overdue aural palette cleanser that would make an interesting introductory audio aperitif. Nevertheless, it playfully presents, as noted in the press, “more groove.”
The closing cut is “Drink More.” Unsurprisingly, this memorable title track is referred to as a “life-altering strategy.” An early fave of fans and critics alike, it gives one the impression that Zimmerman was inspired by both traveling troubadours of the past and real life commentary while writing it. The musical composition contains musical elements of something standard and classic (but your rockin’ reviewer can’t quite put his finger on it as this goes to press.) Ah well, a feeling of familiarity is often a good thing when included on an audio offering of all new material. French encores one last time on vocals.
Overall, this musically experimental album works hard to live up to carrying on with the group’s admitted creeds of fun and freedom. These assorted entertainers truly do take you on a 32-minute meander “across multiple musical genres.” It’s an exceptional artistic effort that melds and mixes assorted influences and styles. So check out The County Well’s Drink More, because “Drinkin’ And Smokin’” can be good for you.