Jim McCormick, The Middle of the River (Threadhead Records)

Jim McCormick, The Middle of the River, album cover

It’s been a bumper crop lately for New Orleans’ native son/Nashville songwriter Jim McCormick, who co-wrote number-one hits for country hat acts Jason Aldean (“Take a Little Ride”) and Brantley Gilbert (“You Don’t Know Her Like I Do”). McCormick’s first release in more than a decade is a sincere ten song affair of co-written material that will likely be a sonic treasure trove for years to come. Regardless of your affinity towards contemporary country music, it’s hard not to be pulled into these storylines. McCormick has a way of slowly unveiling the tale with subtle surprises sprinkled along the way. Since his protagonists aren’t afraid to bear their weaknesses and faults, they’re genuine and lovable with problems and failures that are easy to relate to. There’s the potato chip-munching guy who falls in love with waitresses that remind him of his ex; “Turning Into Me” is a portrait of self-growth and being comfortable with one’s own skin. On “Too Late to Die Young,” the protagonist capitalizes on a second chance to live his life as best as possible.

Besides being a master lyrical craftsman, McCormick has a touch for melody, as evidenced by the simple but affecting “Back When You Loved Me.” Since McCormick has such a pleasant set of pipes, there are never any second thoughts of what a particular song would sound like if a Tim McGraw or a Randy Travis sang it instead. Interestingly, it didn’t take a Nashville studio to produce a record such as this. Fudge Studio’s Shane Theriot, who co-produced these proceedings and played mandolin and all guitars, shows that you don’t always have to leave town to record a major league-sounding record.