Mike Cullison writes country songs, the kind that pretty boys in rhinestone skinny jeans don’t sing. Cullison’s latest album, The Barstool Monologues, is the most brilliant country concept album in years: auditory theater, imagery via sound, and a premise that pulls it all together. Somewhat like Marty Stuart’s album, The Pilgrim, Cullison calls upon his network of friends to perform his songs (so, the lineup is not Cash, Jones, Harris, and Scruggs, but the idea is similar) and his role as the narrator, in this case, The Bartender, keeps the thread going.
As a songwriter, Cullison crafts his tunes with others’ voices in mind from the beginning, so listening to this album and hearing his own songs sung by others was not odd—it was by design. For listeners unfamiliar with songwriters’ concept albums, one could imagine this as a tribute album in which the writer is the collaborator and even instigator. The Barstool Monologues is a very sensuous collection (if you remember the grocery store grammar lesson in Animal House) appealing to the senses musically, and filling the stories with smoke and scenery. It is as if a short film is running for each song, which is very much intended.
For the CD release show, Cullision created the entire scene of the Roadhouse, with him as narrator and the players rolling in and out. As a premise, this could easily be picked up into a TV series, playing on the success of Nashville, but more purposely focused on the grittier side of music. The idea would play well on stage, too, or even in a genius viral video campaign for the right product. All of this supports the songs, which are exactly what a straight-up country song should be, no pretense.
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- Mike Cullison
- Mark Robinson: Produced this album and several of those of The Regulars. He also has a great record of his own, the autobiographical, Quit Your Job, Play Guitar.
- Hank Williams: From Cullison’s early music influences
- Dobie Gray: “Love Is on the Line” was co-written by Don Goodman (Cullison’s early mentor), Waylon Jennings, and Troy Seals
- Brian Langlinais: One of The Regulars
- Delbert McClinton: Cullison’s music has been described as a cross between McClinton and Hank Williams
- John Mellencamp: “Crazy Ones” was co-written with Randy Handley, one of The Regulars
- Tommy Womack: Daniel Seymour is one of The Regulars, and frequently plays bass with Womack, including on his most recent album
- Jon Byrd: One of The Regulars
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