Upon listening to T Warren's latest CD, entitled: "Fight on My Hands" the first thing the listener hears is the very distinctive sound of John Russell's pedal steel guitar on the first track "Little Satilla".
As Mac Aston recently stated so aptly in his own review of T's latest release (published at: http://www.fireeater.org ):
"Little Satilla struck me right away. With its pedal steel floating against the solid drumbeat, its two-fold reading, its honesty, I listened to it for two weeks to fix it in a place, a genre before realising that I could only fit it into the T Warren genre. Is it country? Yes and no. Is it rock? Yes and no. Is it folk? Yes and no. Is it pop? Well, no. So be it. The closest I'm going to get is a blend of country, folk, and rock, salted with blues. Notice, by the way, that blues and rock were born in the South."
I did notice and I have to agree with Mac when he states that "Little Satilla" showcases T's "genius" songwriting ability.
The pedal steel guitar gives the song a very retro, "smokey" feel to this ballad.
"Too Damn Old" the second offering on "Fight on My Hands" is a unique blend of country and old time rock in roll not unlike that of the "California Country Rock" made so famous by Ricky Nelson, Poco and the Eagles or the modern day "Bakersfield" sound (revived in recent years by artists like country music's Dwight Yoakam).
"Too Damn Old" gives a hint of what T. Warren's "Fight" is all about. One can and will interpret song meanings differently, so it is my opinion that the fight of T's life is age. Not only how age affects musicians in an industry whose average age continues to be younger, but how age affects one's outlook on life itself.
Dennis "Blue" Dunlap (whose slide guitar work is reminiscent of Duane Allman) and Jimmy Ruston's solid bass licks compliment each other perfectly. They provide the "Rock" to this tune while Warren provides the "Country" with lines like "Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. It rips the heart apart"
The third track "Alone" is pure Blue Grass with a modern twist. Fans who like the sounds of "Old Crow Medicine Show" (a modern Blue Grass group that has enjoyed great success) will also appreciate this tune.
"Battleflag Heart", the CD's fourth track is a moving ballad written for T's rock of salvation, his wife Pam, (Pamee as he affectionately calls her).
"We've been down so many roads together, sunshine and storms, a mix of all kinds of weather", Warren sings.
He continues, "She's got a Battle Flag heart on a string around her neck, a symbol of what she is, inside and out. Loving, caring, strong and devout."
It is only after a man grows older that he realizes what a treasure a devoted wife is and "Battleflag Heart" captures this beautifully.
"Her name is Dixie" is the one song on "T's" latest release that he didn't have a hand in writing. The song penned by Cornelius Robertson is a mix of Blue Grass and traditional "period" music.
Like "Little Satilla", "Her Name is Dixie" is a tragic love song, but not about a person as the listener might first believe.. in it "Dixie" is courted by "Sam" (Uncle Sam that is). The song warns that if "Sam" has his way, "Dixie" won't be Dixie anymore. Kim Stover provides backing vocals that help the listener relate to "Dixie's" plight.
"Coyote Song", the sixth song on "Fight on My Hands", happens to be my favorite. Knowing that "T" has resided across the South and in Illinois, I can't help but feel that the song is pure "Missouri" to my ears.
The song features some very fine "call and response" work between the guitar and mandolin which give the song a bit of a "Celtic" flavor.
Lyrics like: "When you make camp in the hills, and sit beside the fire, the sun slips away, the night curtain falls, there will come to you, an echo from the silence, soft notes forgotten flutes, and the sounds of drums in the pines. Haunting notes, flute-like in the stream, the crashin' drums of the water fall, mournful chilling wale of the wolf the coyote's siren heard above it all," remind me of sitting around a campfire, in times past and present, on my dad's farm at the foot of Crowley's Ridge, or by a farm pond in the "Bootheel" , or at my house in the Ozark foothills, where, even in town, during the night I can hear the nearby stream, or on occasion, the coyote's siren meticulously performed music help emphasize the poetic lyrics.
The beauty of this song, which T. tells me was inspired by a stay in Georgia, is that it could conjure up memories from almost anywhere from any background.
"Southland" is a song that was featured in Warren's last release "High Times and Low Livin"; it was revamped for his latest outing, with more of a Blue Grass feel and a bit more of an upbeat tempo. Mi Kee shines on the drums as does Barbara Allender who provides backing vocals, which turns this song of longing to return South into optimistic hope that "ole "T" might just make it back to the Southland for good someday.
"Fight on My Hands" the eighth and title track of the CD is a raunchy "Rockin' Roll" history in which Matt Stevens ( The Fugly's) provides lead guitar accompanied by Allender on backing vocals.
"For You", a song co-written by T and Jimmy Ruston, rounds out "T's" latest project. The music writer, Jimmy Ruston, like most of the others who contributed on this project is a long time friend and band mate of Warren's.
The song has a very "Neil Young" flavor to it. Warren is confronting the question of age in his latest outing. With lyrics like, "I wrote this for you but I play it for me" the listener is provided with a sense that with age comes wisdom and the release of "Fight on My Hands", is proof of this.
T. Warren and his friends shine with some of the tightest playing and brightest song-writing that this writer has heard in quite some time, a unique blend of country, blues, blue grass and Southern rock make this release a nice diversion from the ordinary.
For more information you can contact T. Warren at:
Clint E. Lacy is a Southern author and activist who resides in the Ozark Foothills of Southeast Missouri. He is a member of the John T. Coffee Camp #1934 Inc. , Sons of Confederate Veterans and currently serves as an Alderman in the City of Marble Hill.