Like a handful of his similarly compelling peers, John Edward Baumann has the gift of writing smart songs about folks making dumb decisions, and of tempering his youthful gusto with a well-traveled eye for detail, dignity, and world-weariness. His voice isn’t huge in range or volume, but there’s a lend-me-your-ears earnestness in it that makes it even easier to enjoy the provocative numbers he’s created. On his debut EP, he can wax pessimistic about someone’s marital prospects (‘Congratulations’), poke fun at the small-town fundamentalists (‘Bible Belt’) or even lampoon his own wish for good luck to fall in his lap (‘TV On The Floor’) without sounding vindictive, smug or even pessimistic.
In fact, ‘West Texas Vernacular’ is one of the most intriguing, sit-up-and-listen, entertaining records I’ve heard in quite some time. Quintessentially country but with a sharp wit and an unblinkered worldview, Austin-based John describes his music as “narrative driven, country and/or Americana sound, with plenty of room to grow”, noting the lyrics as the most important aspect for him. And when asked about his influences, “James McMurtry, Robert Earl Keen and Adam Carroll have laid the foundation for me as far as songwriters go. But Lyle Lovett is my north star these days. I do not think there are many others like him.”
John is currently in the process of making a full-length album, but for now we have ‘West Texas Vernacular’ to enjoy. He told me a little about each track on the EP, and gave a small insight into what inspired them.
‘Bible Belt’ – “This song was written in the front seat of my car on a lunch break at work. It’s about my family and living in Amarillo, even though I spent my formative years in San Antonio. My dad actually ran and won the District Attorney’s office as a Democrat, but then lost when he ran again so I thought it could be a cool lyrical lick for a song. And yes, we, like many other families ate out after church. And Lubbock used to be a dry county when I was in school at South Plains Community College in Lubbock, so I just kind of went off the idea of kind of prodding the region’s conservative values, trying not to piss too many people off. The Lord on a Billboard was a funny thing I think a lot of people can visualize too.”
‘TV On The Floor’ – “I went to school in Fort Worth, after transferring over from South Plains. I lived in a big animal house, but moved out after a while and lived on my own. Hated it, having no furniture, and was going through some issues with a girl, so I wrote the song. It was pretty much about being isolated, alone.”
‘Congratulations’ – “Everybody knows somebody who gets hitched too soon and for the wrong reasons…”
‘Potter County’ – “This is a fictional story of a guy who gets beaten up, only to realize he’s an alcoholic, with no real purpose, or destination. The darkest song on the EP.”
‘Midland’ – “This is just three minutes of poking some fun at some of the elite oil class, many of the girls I went to college with. All in good fun! It is one of my favorite songs to play.”
The beauty of ‘West Texas Vernacular’ is that while John has focused on the lyrics (and they are indeed incredibly strong, showcasing his impressive narrative ability and way with words), the music does not suffer by any means. There’s plenty going on, and credit should go to the members of Robert Earl Keen’s band for that. The songs have great country melodies and a couple are particularly catchy, for example ‘Bible Belt’ and ‘TV On The Floor’.
Interested? Well, lucky for you not only have I embed a couple of the tracks for your listening pleasure, but I’m giving away a free download of ‘TV On The Floor’ to all my readers!
And click here to download ‘TV On The Floor’ for free!
Don’t forget to go follow John on social media:
Finally, you can buy ‘West Texas Vernacular’ here.