Good Day is AJ Downing’s third album and what a fine one it is. Downing’s music isn’t too far away from that of Jack Ingram, hearty, gritty and it has a swagger. An observational writer like Ingram plus, he has lived quite a bit. For AJ has spent time living in California, Michigan and Nashville. He has played the Bluebird Café a time or two, met in 1989 (he was just 19 at the time) Steve Earle and got to spend an afternoon with him and the Dukes. Steve was getting ready to go out on the road with his album Copperhead Road and doing lots of drugs, it was a wake up call for Downing since something he had done some indulging of his own. For now, Downing is working hard and writing songs possessing subtle and revealing messages.
An electrician by trade he concentrated on it as he supported a wife and four children after his brush with Nashville, but now he is bursting to make his mark. With him not down in Waverley, TX there is every chance he is going to make his mark, since his work possesses that quality factor and with a fine set of players in support in Jordan Teitelbaum, Andrew Carrell, Steve Sarber, Kim Deschamps, Adrian Schoolar and Carrie Downing plus a guest or two. One of them is Shelly King who sings beautifully on ‘My Wagon Just Won’t Roll’ and ‘The Other Cheek’. ‘Aimless Sea’ closes the album in free-flowing fashion as it bounces along to guitars, banjo and accordion (Peter Weiss) as he speaks of a cold north wind blowing as alongside others, he found drifting aimlessly through life (till he got that wake-up call).
Downing’s own playing too is excellent, playing acoustic, electric guitar and some slide too as on the impressive ‘The Other Cheek’, banjo and harmonica. Both are put to excellent use on a Terry Allen-like ‘Valentine’, a great song and one Allen would be well advised to record though he would be pushed to shade Downing’s own version! ‘Lonesome Town’ is a melancholy affair, and on etched in piano (Ian McLagan) a wistful feel transpire, not least in AJ's vocals as he speaks of how he is as ‘blue as he has ever been’ as he ponders on how the relationship in question broke down and good love turned bad.
Among the many gems on offer (also see above too) there is a steel guitar etched, typical Texas barroom ode ‘Willie (Had We Never Been High)’ and to banjo and strong percussion, ‘Forty Below’. Some have noted Downing’s music as having the feel of a modern Hank or Woody but I think he is more his own man. As he crafts out music worthy of a slot alongside the like of those I have noted plus, some Danny Barnes (Bad Livers) and of a retro feel you have ‘What You Lookin’ For’ as he weaves across to a little soul and what a neat sound he comes up with. Plus, it gives the record a little variation, as does ‘American Junkie’ that speaks of being hooked on various vices (and wanting to enjoy life). As he takes of a devil may care attitude. Do you want some real country music, listen to real lyrics and good picking, and then AJ Downing is for you.
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