S.G. Goodman “Old Time Feeling” (Verve Forecast, 2020)

There are quite a few things that are remarkable about ‘Old Time Feeling‘, but the most prominent noteworthy point is that this is S.G. Goodman’s solo debut. It’s such a mature sound that S.G. Goodman has laid down that doesn’t get explained by just her previous punk-band experience, although it was this that led Jim James to co-produce this record. The feel is of stripped down arrangements designed to compliment a voice that is full of living: hard edged, softened in places and desperately honest as it communicates with an urgency and directness that paradoxically is delivering lyrics that can defy an unassisted unpicking.

Old Time Feeling‘ moves seamlessly through musical styles from an opener of a classic country big ballad, ‘Space and Time‘, through the almost Fleet-Foxian ‘Supertramp‘ to the edgy rock of ‘The Way I Talk‘. The last of these is a direct challenge to understand and appreciate the rural Kentucky that has shaped S.G. Goodman – it’s not a glamorous portrayal, with imagery of sharecroppers and coal-miner’s children just clinging on and knowing that they are looked down on “she said “I know what you’re thinking when you hear the way I talk” “. There’s rural poverty and no way out: “her brother’s back at home tending to her daddy’s land / he’s farming for the business man who takes the profit from his hand.” It’s gritty and harsh, musically and lyrically. As a complete contrast is ‘Tender Kind‘ which explores the out of way corners and backroads where love can flourish, albeit for a gay woman raised on the banks of the Mississippi a somewhat secretive passion.

Goodman has an artless habit of dropping in Dylanisms, as on the disorientated ‘If it Ain’t me Babe‘ which sounds like a bar near closing time – declarations of love blending with an unfortunate tendency of solid objects to move and distort, it’s a song that emerges rather than being sung in any traditional meaning of the word. Having copped the title from Dylan, Goodman caps the chorus with a sly steal from Neil Young “I see you in a harvest moon, think of you singing Harvest Moon” but it’s done so naturally that it doesn’t jar – these are songs that are timeless and enigmatic, and hold both those characteristics lightly. ‘Big Girl Now‘ mythologises Goodman’s musical journey from bar singing to this superb album, “you called me a Sweetheart of the Rodeo” she sings before linking souls with Gram Parsons “thought I’d set my soul afire in the desert land“. For all this it’s not a boastful song, rather there is a plaintive longing that’s tied to a funereal march drum beat as Goodman tells of abandoning her past “on my big brass bed” in search of love in the big city – only to find it elusive “you told me love I wasn’t going nowhere.

Old Time Feeling’s‘ greatest success is sounding new and familiar – a voice so weather-worn that it sounds as if it must have an extensive back catalogue and a weariness so complete that it becomes a testament to near defeat by the world. This is an album that will stick with the listener.

A new South emerges from the old South. Or tries, at least.
8/10

Author: Jonathan Aird

Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

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