A former member of beloved Nashville band KingBilly, Charlie Worsham headed his own way in 2010 to pursue a career as a solo artist. Landing a deal with Warner Music Nashville, the multi-instrumentalist from Mississippi’s debut album, Rubberband, plays with similarly bright acoustics and newgrass melodies found throughout KingBilly’s lone 2009 EP. However, on Rubberband, which is available now, Charlie sharpens his own sound to carve out a unique niche of groove-oriented country that blends traditional and progressive.
Since leaving KingBilly, Charlie has worked or toured with a large range of artists as different as Taylor Swift and Eric Church. Charlie co-wrote each of Rubberband’s 11 songs and it’s easy to hear why his laid-back style fits in just about anywhere. With a slight country rasp to shape his delivery, Charlie’s voice hangs on to a bit of Appalachia’s classic mix of folk and Gospel while also conveying the same rich, introspective emotions that are pervasive throughout indie singer/songwriter circles. The lead single “Could It Be” is full of high country notes and percussive guitar beats, while Charlie wonders if this new love might be the one. Throughout much of the album, like in the sparkling chorus of the fool-in-love “Want Me Too” and the circular acoustic guitar/banjo interplay of the despondent “You Can’t Break What’s Broken,” subtle nods to bluegrass are wrapped in gorgeous melodies and soothing harmonies.
Charlie doesn’t force it on Rubberband, instead opting to let the song’s mood dictate the direction. “How I Learned To Pray” uses pretty melodies and mandolin with a quiet, natural vocal. As in the song’s words, it’s all about real life experience and Charlie’s connection to the music is not only evident, but it runs exceptionally deep. The expansive, Americana-tinged “Mississippi In July” carries a hint of nostalgia while Charlie’s evocative voice descends through the melodies. Those familiar with the work of modern acoustic folk-based songwriters like Ben Howard will notice a resemblance in the song’s swirling mood. “Love Don’t Die Easy,” with harmonies from Sheryl Crow, also demonstrates Charlie’s innate feel for just the right pacing and delivery on any song.
Rubberband captures the imagination with unique arrangements that oftentimes build continuously. The title-track’s knocking percussion and instrumental handoffs, sometimes coming mid-lick, are reminiscent of the atmospheric sounds found on Eric Church’s Chief. It’s easy to get lost in the reverb wash and wild breaks, and on “Someone Like Me,” which features the powerful voice of singer Madi Diaz in the chorus, transcendent moments are the result of the two singers’ electric chemistry. The vocal melodies of “Young To See,” one of the album’s best songs, ably wander and drift to acoustic guitars and dobro while Charlie navigates a roots rock vibe with a traveler’s spirit.
Tales of the road come fast on the rippin’ country blues tune “Tools of the Trade,” which features Marty Stuart and Vince Gill on vocals, mandolin and guitar. Words that rhyme and an old train beat/a heart that runs on melodies/I get a brand new song every time it breaks, Charlie sings before the song explodes joyously. There’s a level of energy on Rubberband as inspired as it is genuine, and on his first solo album, Charlie delivers one of the year’s most exciting debuts.
Key Tracks – “Tools Of The Trade,” “Young To See,” “Mississippi In July,” “Rubberband”