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Austin Stambaugh: Supernatural Midwest

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The first time I ever heard Austin Stambaugh was on the YouTube channel “Western AF.”  I’ve been a fan of the channel for a while now and their mission of promoting the most traditional folk, country, and Americana west of the Atlantic by giving the genre a spotlight in a world that has long lost its sense of roots and tradition.  The second Austin appeared on my screen I was entranced as he began playing an original: “Ain’t Through Being Lonely Yet.” Immediately I saw something I had been searching for in music, yet had never truly found: someone who meant what they were saying, someone who sang and expressed themselves so honestly that you had no choice but to feel for them and feel that they understood you as well.  From there I delved into the world of Austin Stambaugh’s latest release, “Midwest Supernatural,” and found that a little bit of picking and a lot of brutal honesty goes a long way.   

The world is truly an absurd place; I learn this more and more every day.  After discovering Austin and his music, I immediately had his music on repeat and knew I had to share it with the one other person I know that shares my pain: my brother.  From then on “Midwest Supernatural” was always playing on the road and tears were being shed all across the great state of Texas.   

During one of my brother and I’s ventures from here in Dallas to our hometown of Austin on a sporadic visit, we found ourselves in the lobby of a hotel with a familiar face: that of the Ohio balladeer himself, Austin Stambaugh.  Mr. Stambaugh is a difficult figure to miss, you can tell by his appearance that he’s a well-traveled man who has lived the word he preaches, so with absolute certainty we greeted the man responsible for so many late-night tears. 

We spoke to Austin in the middle of that hotel lobby for damn near an hour: drinking black coffee and talking about songwriting, Ernest Tubb, Midwest Supernatural, all with the overarching theme of the human condition.  Austin spoke to my brother and I in person just as he spoke to the world on his album: without wasting a word.   

From Track 1 to Track 11, from minute 1 to minute 41, Austin captures the beauty of raw emotion in song form while keeping that old time country sound endlessly refreshing.  “ ‘Til I Reach Downtown” immediately sets the tone for the album, combining fiddle and pedal steel with Austin’s haunting melodies and lamenting vocals gives us a hint of what is to come.   

The previously mentioned “Ain’t Through Being Lonely Yet” is certainly a standout from the album, and a fan favorite.  The song is brutally honest and brutally beautiful, a reminder of that relatable feeling that we don’t want to move on yet, that we think we’re okay, but deep down we know the truth.  It’s a straightforward ballad, yet the song is written with such a universal understanding that anyone could relate, and that’s hard to do in less than four minutes. 

Austin truly shines on this LP doing what he does best: telling a story and using those stories to ask questions.  “Final Delivery” and “Jim Given of LaGrange” convey an eerily similar message of the consequences of the material world we inhabit.  Songs such as “If It Doesn’t Matter Now, Let’s Be Brothers Here,” and “We Live in the Dream We Chose” poignantly convey the morals of the man behind the music.  From the song titles alone, thought provoking statements are made, only to be masterfully built upon word by word.   

“Let’s Be Brothers Here” became a standout song for myself after meeting Austin, it was apparent each line of each song was meant verbatim.  Austin himself emphasized the pride he took in “Jim Given of LaGrange,” a song written about his own grandfather.  The song is a heartbreaking tale of the aforementioned consequences of the material world along with the reality of working so much that we never get to relish in our own accomplishments. 

I initially intended on writing an album review of Midwest Supernatural before I even met Austin, but after running into him I had no choice but to take the conversation he was willing to give us in that hotel and transform it.  Austin Stambaugh is not just a songwriter or folk-singer, but a modern-day philosopher as well.  His stories behind the album and those of his own life have transcended the experience of his latest LP.  “Midwest Supernatural,” is one of those rare musical experiences where you can sit down, listen to the album top to bottom on repeat, and live countless lifetimes in a world that needs escaping.   

Let’s Be Brothers Here. 

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