After more than a dozen years, The Coal Men (Dave Coleman and Dave Ray, with Paul Slivka) have steadily if somewhat quietly developed a reputation as a Nashville combo of exceptional talent and fortitude, even while residing under the radar screen.
"Pushed to the Side" may reflect the trio's sentiments about not achieving wider recognition, but its grit and confidence suggest they're ready to seize some sort of notoriety whenever the public finally catches up. An easy comparison would suggest a countrified version of Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band, especially when it comes to the rumbling songs of desire and disconnect expressed in "Lilly Hurst" and "Depreciate," each of which find The Boss' restless spirit pervasive here as well. The drive and determination that fuels such songs as "Pushed to the Side," "Willy Jett" and "Fast Rider" reflect a varied range of tangled emotions, while the combination of quiet resolve, Coalman's weary but resolute vocals and the band's paired down arrangements enhance the sentiments in a stirring way.
A few of the songs here break the mold - the twangy, double time "Speeding Like a Demon," the sinewy and suggestive "The Payoff," the immensely haunting "Stones River" and "The Singer (In Louisville)," a number inspired by the book "Based On: Words, Notes, and Art From Nashville" - but there's no mistaking the deliberation and intent that binds this material overall. It's long past time The Coal Men received their due, and "Pushed to the Side" is the disc to do it.