A tting introduction to a bold new era of Josh Abbott Band, “Astronaut” opens Somewhere Down The Road on a hypnotic and string-heavy instrumental before bursting into a moment of pure catharsis: “Sometimes I wish I was an astronaut/Instead of workin’ this bullshit concrete job…Sick of sweatin’ in the summer heat/Just to buy cheap beer and gasoline”. Immediately after, “The Sale” sustains that moody intensity with a blistering takedown of the fame-hungry tendencies of so many industry insiders (“When the lights come on/The moths utter in/Oblivious that radiance eventually goes dim”).
The latest album from Josh Abbott Band, Somewhere Down The Road was born from the kind of musical passion that only gets stronger as time goes by. After 15 years of building a wildly devoted following in their home state and well beyond, the Texas-bred now eight-piece approached their seventh studio LP with a renewed dedication to trusting their instincts and speaking an unvarnished truth about life, love, and human nature. Matching their intricate arrangements and immediately catchy melodies with all the raw vitality of a freewheeling bar band, Somewhere Down The Road ultimately captures an essential act at the height of its powers—and fully arms Josh Abbott Band as a formidable force in modern country music.
As singer/songwriter Josh Abbott reveals, the unbridled authenticity of Somewhere Down The Road emerged from a deliberate shift in his writing process. Abbott solo-wrote four of the tracks, and co-wrote another four. “For a long time I wanted to write hooky three-minute songs that would sound good on the radio, but now I’m writing from the heart more than I ever have,” says Abbott, whose legacy in Texas music also includes co-founding the widely beloved supergroup The Panhandlers. In fact, the band scrapped an entire album before starting from scratch and creating a body of work that truly fullled their vision—one that echoes Abbott’s deepened devotion to crafting lyrics with a profound emotional realism, often exploring the more complex aspects of family life, love, and the music business. “The more I listened to that other record, the more it felt like a sequel to the last album rather than a reection of where we’re at now,” says Abbott. “This new record came from getting back to who I really am as a songwriter, and there was a lot of exorcising some of the demons from my past.”
Not only an evolution of Abbott’s songwriting, Somewhere Down The Road takes Josh Abbott Band in a new and adventurous sonic direction. Produced by Dwight A. Baker (who also produced 2015’s critically acclaimed Front Row Seat) and recorded at his Matchbox Studios in Austin, the album marks the rst eort from the band’s newly recongured lineup, including longtime members Austin Davis (banjo), Eddie Villanueva (drums), David Fralin (keys), and Jimmy Hartman (bass) as well as recent additions Adam Hill (ddle) and guitarists Cale Richardson and Kris Farrow. Along with channeling the electrifying energy JAB’s always brought to the stage since starting in Lubbock in 2006, Somewhere Down The Road encompasses plenty of otherworldly textures, achieved in part through their addition and graceful use of synth. “We mixed this record to be listened to through headphones, so that you can pick up on a lot of elements you might not notice otherwise,” says Abbott. “Dwight and I spent so much time focusing on those little moments for people who want to listen closely.”
“In a way we sequenced this record the exact opposite of how we’d usually do it,” Abbott says. “Instead of starting with the upbeat, lighthearted songs, we opened with some of the more experimental tracks, then moved into the ballads, and ended the album with the usually upbeat burners that typically would start an album of ours. This feels like a whole new chapter for our band, so it made sense to present it in a completely dierent way.”
One of Abbott’s most personal oerings to date, Somewhere Down The Road embodies an unguarded honesty on tracks like “What Were You Thinkin’” (a bittersweet but uptempo love song on which Abbott confesses to his deepest insecurities and self-doubts) and “She’ll Always Be” (a sweetly poetic serenade to someone eternally free-spirited, dedicated to Abbott’s six-year-old daughter; complete with that ddle accompaniment they’ve always utilized in melodies). Meanwhile, on the stripped-back but spellbinding “Guilt Of A Man,” Abbott delves into a highly delicate matter seldom addressed in song form. “I wrote that about watching my wife go through postpartum depression after the birth of our daughter,” Abbott explains. “I was thinking about all the ways that motherhood aects a woman and how there’s so much struggle involved, and about how I had this intense sense of guilt that only came from wanting to love her. We recorded it live in one take, which felt right for a song that’s so sparse and vulnerable.”
Co-written by Abbott and Grammy-winning heavy-hitter Jon Randall (Miranda Lambert, Parker McCollum, Dierks Bentley), the title track to Somewhere Down The Road serves as the album’s centerpiece and an overall mission statement for Josh and the band. “I wanted to write about gaining some clarity in the music industry and how it all works,” says Abbott. “Every night on tour I’m on up there onstage—sometimes that stage is shiny and new, sometimes it’s old and beat-up, but either way I’m singing about my life and everything I’ve been through. I feel like I’m nally starting to see things for what they are: both the fake-ness and the authentic friendships. I’m just happy for us to keep going down this highway together.” Graced with a scorching duo-guitar solo from both Farrow & Richardson, the result is a gritty and glorious look at meeting life on its own terms (“I’m starting to see the forest for the trees/In these made-in-China truckstop shades, it’s looking good to me/Heads or tails, ipping a dime/Betting on FDR to get it right half of the time”).
On the more euphoric back half of Somewhere Down The Road, Josh Abbott Band delivers everything from the lovestruck wonder of “Closer To You” (an impossibly catchy expression of longing) to the fun-loving swagger of “Barstool Boys” (a harmonica-fueled anthem courtesy of Fralin for “all your buddies you drink and watch the game with,” as Abbott puts it). Both of those, as well as “Astronaut” and “Brutus, Judas, & You” are co-writes involving longtime friend and hit songwriter Erik Dylan (Luke Combs, Riley Green, Warren Zeiders).
On “Back To Normal,” Abbott brings his lived-in storytelling to a piano-laced and brightly swinging meditation on the frenetic pace of modern life. “Back in 2020 when we were all sitting at home, I was thinking a lot about how we’ve let life get so chaotic,” he says. “When I sing that line ‘I’m getting’ back to normal again,’ it’s not about wishing Covid would end and we could go back to being busy again. It’s about slowing down and staying home with our families, and how that’s maybe the normal way to live.” Finally, the album closes with a fast-paced almost punk-country scorching send o to someone who used to be close, (“Caesar had Brutus, Jesus had Judas, and I had you.”)
All throughout Somewhere Down The Road, Josh Abbott Band show an uncompromising commitment to moving forward and constantly pushing into new musical terrain, mining inspiration from such eclectic sources as the folkier edges of Americana and Texas Red Dirt country as well as subtly inventive indie-rock acts like Death Cab for Cutie. “I’ve never wanted to make a career out of playing the same songs over and over; I’ve always aspired to be the guy who keeps going as he gets older and continually gives people something new they can look forward to,” says Abbott. “To me this album feels like a real turning point toward that, and I’m optimistic and ready to see where we end up going next.”