Just a few months after Midland traced their origin story through The Sonic Ranch documentary, the Dripping Springs, Texas’ beloved trio—Mark Wystrach, Cam Duddy, and Jess Carson—are venturing further into their wandering journey through the vast country sphere with a new five-song project, The Last Resort. Released July 16 via Big Machine, the three singer-songwriters reunite with longtime co-writers, including Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne on the project and other studs like Jessi Alexander, Marv Green, and JT Harding.
Nashville has hardly recovered from the outlier trio’s 2017 debut, On the Rocks. Like a fiery burst of ‘70s country-rock energy, Midland’s neo-traditionalism shook “bro-country” to its fragile core. The album standout, “Drinkin’ Problem” landed as an instant hit. The steel guitar-driven, blues-tinged track reveals a relatable irreverence. From their No.1 hit to the charted Let It Roll, released in 2019, the cosmic trio captured the hearts of a breadth of music fans, selling out shows and dominating the road.
Since 2019, the trio has continued to let it roll, releasing Live From The Palomino in 2020 leading up to the 10-song soundtrack of demo tapes that accompanied their Sonic Ranch documentary this spring. The recordings, Wystrach says, “capture three friends, at a live-in-studio in the desert, trying to make a dream come true.”
For their first collection of new material in nearly two years, Midland turned to seasoned professionals to produce the project—McAnally, Osborne, and Josh Huff. The Last Resort is part of what will be a full album of the same title. For the sake of releasing new content before they hit the road, Midland makes up for lost time with a five-song sneak peek of their pandemic productivity.
Though the traditional record cycle seems somewhat broken, the Texas trio insists on the steadfastness of the long-form narrative. And so they intentionally crafted this EP into something listeners want to consume in its entirety.
“Choosing these songs, you want them to have a narrative when you listen to them altogether—which we always hope people do,” says Carson. “We strive to be an album band, meaning every song on the album is great. And if you play it top-to-bottom, it tells the story and hopefully, there are no songs that you need to skip. Go for a long drive, and digest it in that way.”
Carson adds, “But at the same time, we are trying to choose and write the very best songs that are going to stand the test of time, that’s the number one goal.”
The opener, “And Then Some,” sets the tone with something more emotive than you might expect from their previous vintage swinging sets. Like a heartbroken George Strait, Midland channels their later influence into a ‘90s-kind of sad-boy country song. The song speaks to their co-writers, McAnally and Osborne’s enduring commercial country strength.
Searing pedal steel steers Midland back into their lane for the second track. Co-penned with Carson, Alexander, and Aaron Raitiere, “Sunrise Tells The Story” sheds a shimmering morning light on the sultry secrets of a late-night love story. Lyrically, the writer trio conjures up evocative imagery of the “morning after.”
With characteristically sanguine harmonies, they sing: And the moon saw it all through a thin piece of glass / And the stars must have blushed when you kissed me like that / We can’t hide the evidence / It’s scattered everywhere in all its naked glory.
“Two To Two-Step” is a rollicking mid-way point on the project. The guitar-led track is another McAnally-Osborne team-up and lands in tune with the ‘90s-tinged opening track. An uptempo dancefloor moment transforms into Midland’s reimagined dance hall for the waltzing “Take Her Off Your Hands.” The lyrics detail “a fool” who is “too blind” to see the woman on his arm, pining for his affection. In unison, the trio’s vocal simpatico sings: Hey mister, could I cut in for a dance? / You don’t know what you’ve got if forever’s just not in your plans.
“Adios Cowboy” dates back to the early days. Carson penned the song sometime between the first and second albums with Duddy, Wystrach, Green, and Harding. As storytellers, their soundscape expands into the echoing vastness of an empty bed and broken heart.
Always etching down new ideas, the trio has songs spilling out of catalogs always seeking a home in an upcoming album project. Like “Adios Cowboy,” Carson hopes to reserve a few spots on every album for the ones that never got to see the light of day, but deserve their moment in the sun. Though it was written several years ago, “Adios Cowboy” serves as a snapshot in time for an ever-evolving band—reminding them of their roots and the serendipitous story of an unlikely trio.
“The Last Resort is both a psychical place but also a spiritual place. It’s partly influenced by the times, we wrote a lot of songs over the last year so there is that feeling of wide-open spaces and yearning,” says Carson. “And there are the stories of these characters that hopefully are flushed out as little movies in three-and-a-half minutes.”
THE LAST RESORT TRACK LIST:
1. “And Then Some” (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
2. “Sunrise Tells The Story” (Jess Carson, Jessi Alexander, Aaron Raitiere)
3. “Two To Two Step” (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
4. “Take Her Off Your Hands” (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
5. “Adios Cowboy” (Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Marv Green, JT Harding)
Photo Credit: Harper Smith