Colby Acuff - Western White Pines
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Western White Pines (Sony Music Nashville, 2023)

Colby Acuff

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

With "Western White Pines," Colby Acuff reveals many sides of his musical personality. All of them appealing. He is also a young man with a wise old man's soul, and his major label album gives listeners many reasons to love this relatively new country voice.

Acuff takes on the big topic of what is (and isn't) an outlaw with "Outlaw in Me." He begins by confessing to being an outlaw to his parents, at least. "Mama says that I drink too much/Daddy don't like the cussin' when I sing." Over a rolling, upbeat rhythm, Acuff sounds like a latter-day Jimmie Rodgers when he states later, "I'm too Idaho for Texas, and I'm too Texas for Tennessee."

One big part of the outlaw persona is finding oneself someone that just doesn't fit anywhere well, the same way '70s Texas outlaws just didn't feel right trying to play the Nashville game. He doesn't come off too outlaw-ish, though, with the very next song, "Boy and a Bird Dog." Over a loping acoustic guitar, accompanied by gentle whistling, Acuff sings happily about the special relationship between a child and his canine.

The album's most striking song, though, is "Cherokee Rose." The character in it happens upon a man in a field who regularly places a rose bouquet upon his late wife's grave "because she loved them most." The arrangement for it is little more than fingerpicked acoustic guitar, fiddle and just a touch of banjo. It's a tender ode to enduring love, and a wonderful addition to the country storytelling song tradition.

"Better Man" expresses this self-described outlaw's desire to live better. He begins by singing how as a child he dreamed of saving "people in distress," and throwing "outlaws in a concrete can," but this verse ends with Acuff admitting, "And now the outlaw in the mirror looks just like me." The track nicely incorporates plenty of saloon piano. "Hard Livin' Life" is Acuff's outlaw lifestyle anthem. "I'm 25 years young," he reveals, and he finds himself regularly "singing my heart out on stage." This lifestyle has been putting him through hell, it's true, but he then admits, "I've grown to love the flames." Thus, even though he knows he's chosen a hard life, he's like a moth drawn to that flame, consequences be damned.

If there are still modern-day country outlaws, Colby Acuff is most certainly one, bless him!

CDs by Colby Acuff

Western White Pines, 2023

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