Critics from coast to coast are in universal agreement – country music is desperately in need of a makeover. The once vibrant symbol of American artistry and vitality hasn’t aged as well as rock n’ roll or R&B, and artists like The Good Morning Nags are intent on giving it the shot of adrenaline that it has been in such severe need of. In their new EP No Damn Good, the Nags introduce mainstream audiences to their own interpretation of country music; one that incorporates influences from folk, heartland rock and even modern pop to make an irresistibly bucolic cocktail.
Despite the title of this record, No Damn Good contains two of the most stylish crossover country tunes you’re going to hear in 2018. The Good Morning Nags aren’t playing to country’s hardcore fans nor untapped markets that Nashville has only dreamed of conquering someday. Instead, they’re playing for themselves, for the spirit within that drives them to pick up their instruments and express the feelings that don’t have any linguistics attached to them. There’s nothing holding them back, and their vulnerability makes No Damn Good not just a smart EP, but a truly accessible record to fans of almost any genre of music.
In the eponymous title track, the Nags evoke colorful images of bar brawls and scorned lovers, but what makes the song a hit isn’t its capitalization of such classic country music themes. It’s the chemistry that the Nags sport; every piece of the band is gelling together perfectly with the one beside it, and no one feels like they’re competing for the spotlight over the others. Tones are evenly distributed at a fiery pace, and listeners are left to either keep up or get vacuumed up by its immensely textured rhythms.
“Birmingham,” the other half of No Damn Good, is a much more enigmatic, smoky folk song than its counterpart, but the same level of intense passion found in the title track can also be found here as well. The biggest thing that we can learn from “Birmingham” is that the Nags, unlike many of their closest contemporaries and rivals, don’t need big amplifiers or even electricity to ignite excitement in a crowd. They don’t need big volume to make a statement, because harmonies like these don’t have to be loud to leave an impression the size of a lunar crater in the heart of even the most discriminating listener among us.
Despite its incredibly short running time, No Damn Good is a focused, engrossing listen for anyone who enjoys pure country grooves and bold melodic tonality that doesn’t give up once it gets going. You’d be hard pressed to find a band, country or otherwise, boasting more creative songwriting east of the Mississippi, and something tells me that The Good Morning Nags have even bigger, more experimental things in store for their fans as the next decade unfolds. There isn’t anything to indicate that their popularity will fade anytime soon, and with any luck, all of their future releases will be as strong and formidable as this latest smash hit is.
-review by Thomas Patton, III