Today we've teamed up with outlaw country revivalist Craig Gerdes to premiere and stream his highly anticipated new album, Smokin', Drinkin' & Gamblin'. We've been "highly anticipating" the disc—which will be released February 16 via Sol Records—since we featured the album's first single in our guide to 2017's 10 Best Roots Releases. Now you can check out that tune, not to mention the entire album, below.
If you're not a fan of rockin', rappin' and endlessly disappointin' modern country music, you'll probably love Gerdes' vintage, stripped-down, honest, lean-and-mean approach. The album sounds like it's straight out of the late Seventies or early Eighties—and it fits comfortably alongside recent releases by honky-tonk hero Whitey Morgan.
Gerdes' sound is packed with high-lonesome pedal steel guitar, gritty six-strings, well-seasoned vocals and strong imagery ("They found him dead in a box in Kentucky"). Best of all, Smokin', Drinkin' & Gamblin' was essentially recorded live in the studio.
"All the vocals, bass, drums and acoustic guitar you hear are the original, unedited live performances," Gerdes tells us. "There's a level of honesty and sincerity in this record that I’ve never captured before—including some minor imperfections. I hope it makes the album more accessible, relatable and genuine. I'm proud that this recording has no auto-tuning, no sampled drums or studio trickery. It’s all vibe—raw and real.
"We did all of the initial tracking live at the Sol Records studios in Indiana with Brian DeBruler on drums, who also recorded and produced the record," Gerdes adds. "I had previously recorded in Nashville and done things in a very structured environment with charts, click tracks and rigid time schedules, which always seemed to mechanize the process. I was looking for something different with Sol.
"Before we started, I asked Brian, do you want me to go ahead and chart these songs out? His response was, 'Nah, man, we're just gonna learn ‘em'." I thought, well, okay, this is going to be interesting. It was definitely a more relaxed approach, but after several passes at the first track, things weren't gelling. The recording was solid but it didn’t grab you or pull you in. It was like we were [just] going through the motions. We took a break and went to the bar next door to have a shot and a beer—or maybe four, I can't remember—but my uncertainty was growing. When we came back to the studio, we switched out the snare drum to a ratty-looking old 1963 Gretsch, and it was like something magic happened. We all fell into the groove like we had been playing together for 25 years and laid the song down. It felt comfortable and natural."
As is usually the case, Gerdes and his band are on the road in the U.S. as we speak, and you can check out his current shows here.
"I'm looking forward to touring and meeting more people that enjoy music," he says. "Music is healing; it heals me daily. I'm also excited about playing at Tumbleweed 2018 and the Tailgates & Tallboys festivals this summer with my Sol Records brother Dallas Moore. It's an honor to be playing these big events alongside so many other great songwriters in our genre. It's encouraging to see such a tremendous outpouring of support for independent country music. This is our time; Sol Records—rise of the independents!"
For more about Gerdes and the new album, visit craiggerdesmusic.com.