Cole Washburn, “Wanderer”

Once in a while, when I go in search of folk artists unknown to me, I want to be reminded of Woody and Arlo. Nitty Gritty Dirt. John (gasp!) Denver. Certain Pure Prairie League songs. The Band. Joe Crookston. Songs that owe their DNA to mountain music, and which evoke the common person’s integration of music into their every day lives.

Today I found Cole Washburn on ReverbNation.   His featured song “Wanderer” fills that need for me. Though the South is baked into Washburn’s work, this track reminds me of my family’s Appalachian roots and working experiences, and of our history of wandering from place to place.

A muted snare drum and a shaker hold down a steady shuffle beat under an acoustic guitar strum that makes me think of the broken lines on a blue highway flashing by my car window. Electric slide guitar ghosts around the melody but never gets in the way. And Washburn’s authentic, unvarnished vocals deliver the honest, simple lyric, like your uncle Sam telling one of his road warrier stories.

Washburn may be singing about and celebrating the road, but there’s something else going on. Is he feeling his Texas roots in San Antonio, buried under the Alamo? Does he need to prove to himself that someone could love him by running away to see if they would follow? There are hidden depths in this simple song.

“Wanderer” is just one of several of Washburn’s songs that I enjoyed. Give him a listen on ReverbNation.