With The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be, Bleu Edmondson’s long-awaited follow-up to 2007’s critically acclaimed Lost Boy, the southern-fried country rocker embarked on a search for truth, stripping back layers of regret, loss, and longing to uncover a renewed, albeit somewhat painfully soul-baring, view of himself and the world around him. He dug deeper into what the music meant to him as a musician, a writer and a man. “Writing is like holding up a mirror to those darkest corners of our lives that we keep hidden,” confides the raspy-throated singer. “It’s not always a pretty reflection, but it’s real and it matters.” The collection of songs ministers to the saint and the sinner in each of us. It is an amalgamation of those touch points and influences that give us permission to question, confront and raise a little hell on Saturday night.
Bleu’s early years were spent focused on sports rather than music. He picked up a guitar for the first time during his college years, learned a few chords and his future was set. Bleu soon discovered that some of his favorite musical acts – Robert Earl Keen, Radney Foster, Uncle Tupelo – shared a common thread: Lloyd Maines either produced or played steel guitar on their recordings. A short time later, using a tape player in his dorm room, Bleu made guitar/vocal demos of some of his songs and sent the tape to Maines. Quickly recognizing the raw talent on that homemade cassette tape, Maines contacted Bleu and ultimately became his producer. The pairing made two records together – Southland and The Band Plays On – and Bleu credits Maines with giving him his start in the music business.
On the new disc’s debut single, “No Room for Mercy,” the soulful singer/songwriter paints a vivid picture of the painful unraveling of a relationship, with a south Texas thunderstorm as a symbolic backdrop. The raw wounds of deception, anger and disappointment are ripped wide open as the betrayed singer tells his lover that there is a price for what she has done and “you won’t lie to me anymore.” Unlike some of his songwriting peers in other genres, Bleu chooses not to resolve the situation – or to explain in detail the circumstances involved – opting instead to allow the listener room to weave their own experiences into the song’s storyline.
Edmondson’s lyrics convey a worldly perspective of one who has lived a life balanced on the edge – of success and failure, love and hate, elation and despair – with his trademark grit and unselfconscious vulnerability intact. There is no sugar-coating in his songs; he simply calls it like he sees it.
His men are flawed, with the brooding darkness of someone who has loved, lied and lost but for reason untold, repeats his mistakes time and again; and they are also vulnerable, with a desolate loneliness of someone who has been loved, been lied to and been left behind. Sometimes they are scared little boys, strangers to themselves and mysteries to those around them. But at the end of the day, they love a good party.
The women in Edmondson’s songs are innocent in one moment, insincere in the next, and unable to love the man who is willing to give them his heart. They dance, they cry, they lose faith, they scream, and they love and hate interchangeably. They are omnipresent, sometimes appearing as a barefoot angel sent to save the lost souls living life on the outside, or other times as a past-her-prime party girl who still has the boys fighting for her attention – and anything else she might surrender.
The couples he writes of lose their minds, quench each other’s thirsts, lie and fail to keep their promises; they fear, they take chances and through it all they love, with an urgent intensity that speaks to the desperation in their lives.
The title cut finds the singer, having first lost his way and then lost his lover, coming to terms with the realization that “there ain’t no heart that goes scot-free.” In “Life on the Outside,” homage is paid to those standing on society’s fringes, out of pride, battered, bruised, and suffering. The subject of war is broached in “Black and White,” which finds a young man contemplating enlistment, due in part to his inability to find a job, but also at the urging of a man down at the school in a real nice uniform. Before leaving home he attempts to alleviate his mother’s worries by assuring her “this ain’t no Vietnam.”
Edmondson also knows how to crank up the amps and throw down hard. From the ‘take no prisoners’ Springsteen-esque “I’m Still Here” to the unofficial party anthem of Dallas’ Greenville Avenue, “Riot Night,” the hometown-boy roots-rocker is not afraid to show off his chops. His raucous live show has earned him street cred and respect among his fans as well as his musical co-horts throughout Texas, a state that can lay claim to more than its fair share of the musical talent gene pool.
The celebrations are never ending – filled with twilight strollers, rock-n-rollers, young lovers and jesters, and always a few girls dancing on the bars in crowded beer joints. But even in the midst of the fun, there are suggestions of unforeseen dangers lurking nearby, with poetic references to “suicide doors” on a “blood red” car, and a fair warning not to “stray too far.”
Musically the tracks are bold, powerful, bright, and decidedly more rocking than his prior releases. This is the second round in the studio for Edmondson and Baker (influential Austin producer, Dwight Baker); the pair joined forces previously on the 2007 Lost Boy CD. Bleu’s signature rasp has a wrapped-in-silk quality, and Baker keeps him forefront in the mix, supported with a metronomic backbeat cushion as only a drummer-turned-producer can do.
Edmondson’s rapidly growing fan base, “The Southland Mob,” takes its name from his debut CD, produced by Texas musical royalty, Lloyd Maines. His road-dog touring ethic, particularly since signing with powerhouse talent bookers, Creative Artist Agency (CAA), keeps him running down blacktops and back roads in excess of 200 days each year. As Edmondson’s popularity has grown so has his touring radius, much to the delight of his out-of-Texas fans. Recent shows have found him stepping beyond the borders of the Lone Star state, with stops in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Virginia and New Jersey.
Released on his own record label, American Saint Records, Bleu shrugs off the comparisons to 2007’s Lost Boy, “I am proud of this new CD. Dwight and I knew it might be hard to follow up, but The Future is its own thing. I am in a different place in my life now, so naturally my writing reflects that, and I believe my fans will find something they love on this one. I really do.”
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