Country-rock is experiencing quite the comeback in 2022, and it’s not at all surprising when looking at some of the work bands like Tennessee Outlaw Country have been up to in recent months. With singer/songwriter Matt Westin at the wheel, Tennessee Outlaw Country take us right off the Nashville rails and into decidedly southern rock territory with the new single “Ghost Train,” and while I think the structure of this track tethers it more to the modern country conceptualism than it does anything in rock, the cosmetics – and spirit – of the performance are as hot n’ heavy as they come.
Right off the top, Tennessee Outlaw Country is hitting us with the kind of righteous riffing I wish I could hear more of out of the straight-up rockers making their way onto the FM dial in 2022, but the guitar element never becomes so potent as to take something away from Westin’s singing. Contrarily, his voice meshes with all of the instrumental discord so perfectly that it’s rather startling how long it took for him to find his way over to these aesthetics. He wears the outlaw look well, and anyone who would disagree needs to hear this single for themselves.
The groove in “Ghost Train” wholeheartedly supports the rock n’ roll influence over the melodies, and intriguingly enough it actually contributes something to the energy of the lyrics that arguably makes them just a bit more tangible to us than they already would have been. It’s undeniable that Westin is good with a verse, but he seems nudged closer to the heart of the harmonies with this percussion than he would be amidst the absence of a raging drumbeat. He’s found his proper speed, and I would challenge any of his longtime listeners to say otherwise after hearing this song.
This hook is pure country, and when it’s dressed up with the distorted guitars on the front end of the mix, it feels like a return to the outlaw aesthetic that so many had feared long dead in this genre. Quite frankly, I think that “Ghost Train” would probably sound just as biting as an acoustic song as it does an electrifying single, which says a lot about the compositional wit of these players, specifically Matt Westin. He’s more conceptual than some of his peers, but when looking at what that complex attitude results in, it’s hard to argue with his methods.
If you didn’t know much or anything about Matt Westin or Tennessee Outlaw Country before having a sit-down with “Ghost Train,” I think you’re likely to step away from this performance hungry for more from this highly talented group of musicians. They’re collaborating on a notion more than they are a blueprint or a specific model within the Nashville lexicon, and that’s granting them a level of freedom that most of their closest rivals just won’t be able to attain within the context of the music they’re making today. Westin and his band know the score, and they’re here to settle it for outlaw country fans everywhere in “Ghost Train.”