I have to say I really enjoy and eagerly await Anti-Corporate Music`s The Magnolia Sessions releases, which launched in September 2020. It`s a series that sees a new album released the first week of each month. They showcase bluegrass, dark country, and folk singer/songwriter acts in an intimate outdoor setting at the Anti-Corporate Music/Black Matter Mastering headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. This month they present the ninth title with Ohio born but Nashville-based folk artist and singer-songwriter Austin Stambaugh.

This album opens with ‘God Please Save My Soul’ and it really reminds me of those raw Elvis Presley Sun Sessions of the early fifties that produced tracks like `I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin)`. There`s a real ache almost pleading in the vocal delivery in this nigh on gospel tinged offering. We have a wonderful melody throughout `Your Best With What You Have Now` a song of real inspiration. An uplifting hopeful reflection in these troubled times.

`My Fear Of God` is a horror hymn according to the singer and “the scariest one on the record, the act of reaching out your hand to feel God and snatching nothing.” It does evoke that feeling of despair at times. We enjoy some quite intricate guitar chords on `Every Bit Of Your Luck` a sort of reflective musing that although a tad melancholic seems to relay a positive message.

`I Still Wonder` has a slight bluesy texture to it where the vocals are heartbreakingly affected as if Austin`s not sure whether he should share them with us or not. A quite frustrating but thoroughly compelling offering. There`s a more Americana/Country vibe to `Only One Can Do` a brief but deeply introspective and personal perspective on romance.

The recognition of a partner`s support is almost tangible in `With Your Help`. The agony and anguish shines through this petition for a second chance in a previously undervalued relationship. We have some sublimely poetic sincerity in the plea “so won`t you melt my frozen heart, for its so sad while we`ve been apart, and with your help I know I’ll start, to shine my light again” Breath taking. The album closes out with `Come On And Look At What You’ve Done`, a further tale of broken hearts set against another string of atmospheric and complex acoustic guitar chords.

Once again, this session was recorded in the dark under a magnolia tree, and you can hear the crickets, cicadas, and distant traffic in the background. Austin has shared that “These songs to me have a yearn like old hymns, they are ideas that offer insight on the perspective of oneself and limitations. They are about existential fear and self-accountability”. Once more Anti-Corporate Music have unearthed another unknown hidden gem who writes in a graceful manner that compels you to mull over and consider what he’s saying. At times, the songs have a slight melancholic intensity but to me we all need a little sadness in our life to balance it out. This guy has supported national touring acts such as Joe Ely and Kinky Friedman and has a residency in Nashville on a Wednesday night so if you happen to be there and are at a loose end, you know where you should go.

Rating 9 /10


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