Today, Joshua Hedley dropped his second album Neon Blue and it is jam-packed with bangers that could have burned up the charts in the early 90s. So, if you’re nostalgic for the good old days when greats like Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Reba McEntire were dominating the world of country music, this is the album for you.
Back in March, Joshua Hedley sat down with Outsider to discuss the new album. During the conversation, Hedley revealed the two major factors that led him to dig into the 90s sound for Neon Blue.
First, he said that it was about nostalgia. He grew up listening to that era of country music. Additionally, most of his fans are around the same age and grew up listening to the same music. So, he wanted to make something that sounded like a simpler time in life.
More importantly, Hedley noted that it was an important time for country music. “From about ’89 to ’96 to me, that was kind of the last hurrah of fiddle and steel. That was the last truly traditional country era. It was the last time you could turn the radio on and discernably hear a country song. You knew exactly what it was. It was country music. So, I wanted to tip my cap to that,” he said.
Neon Blue is one hell of a hat-tip to 90s country. While the album sounds like something that could’ve dropped over 30 years ago, Joshua Hedley manages to make it all feel fresh. More importantly, nothing on this record ever feels gimmicky in any way. Instead, it is obvious that you’re hearing an artist steeped in the traditions of country music paying homage to the music of his youth.
Standout Tracks from Neon Blue
Full disclosure: I’ve been listening to this album since before I spoke to Joshua Hedley last month. I can tell you, without embellishment, that Neon Blue is pure country gold. However, there are a few songs that I’ve been chomping at the bit to add to my playlists and share with some friends who are big 90s country fans.
My absolute favorite songs on the new Joshua Hedley album are “Country & Western” and “River in the Rain” but I’ve already talked about those songs at length and don’t want to be redundant. Instead, we’ll look at a few songs that aren’t singles.
“The Last Thing In the World” (Joshua Hedley, Carson Chamberlain, Wyatt McCubbin)
I love songs about going down to the local honky tonk and drowning your sorrows under neon lights. “The Last Think In the World” scratches that itch perfectly. However, it isn’t just the same old “my heart’s broken so I’m gonna get drunk about it,” story. In this one, the narrator is a down-and-out bar patron who knows the last thing in the world the bar needs is one more fool drowning his sorrows in beer in sad songs. You can really hear the duality of the guy’s mindset in the chorus.
“If I had a dime from every broken heart that’s been in here / I could buy this bar and everyone a round of beers. / ‘Cause there’s enough fools like me playing A-11 and ‘Sweet Dreams’ / And that’s the last thing in the world this honky tonk needs.”
“Down to My Last Lie” (Joshua Hedley, Carson Chamberlain, Zach Top)
My favorite thing about this album is Joshua Hedley’s songwriting. It really shines in “Down to My Last Lie.” This is an incredible cheating song. However, it’s a little more complex. The song sees the narrator torn between the woman waiting for him at home and his mistress. It’s clear that he loves them both, but has to walk away from the ladder because he just can’t lie to the former anymore. Hedley beautifully illustrates the conflict here.
Early in the song, he details making excuses as to why he won’t be home. Then, he heads to the other woman’s house thinking “It’s the last time I’ll hold her / ‘Cause I’m down to my last lie,” and it’s a great setup. Then the other shoe drops.
“I know what I’m doing has to end, it can’t go on like this. / But I lose the will to tell her with every little kiss. / I keep telling myself I can do it but I can’t when I look in her eyes / ‘Cause she’s got a way of making me put it off until next time.”
“Found in a Bar” (Joshua Hedley, Carson Chamberlain, Zach Top)
“Found in a Bar” is one of the best new love songs I’ve heard in quite a while. It’s a sweet and heartfelt song that never crosses the line into sappy or saccharine.
In the opening lines, we’re introduced to an older couple who met in a bar and have been together for over 40 years. Then, just when you think it’s going to dig deeper into their story, the perspective shifts and we learn that the narrator is relating the story to his lady. “Baby, I’m telling you this ‘cause I think what we got is built to last. / We got a lot of road ahead and with all that being said, I’ve got to ask / Would you mind spending all your nights with your head next to mine?”
Final Verdict on Joshua Hedley’s New Album
Neon Blue is a great record from start to finish. Joshua Hedley poured his soul into this album and you can hear it on every track. At the same time, it is one of those albums that will be the perfect soundtrack for your weekend and beyond. Do yourself a favor and check it out today.