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Chuck Mead

Free State Serenade – 2014 (Plowboy)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by Chuck Mead

Chuck Mead, best known for his successful start with BR549, takes us back to his home state of Kansas for a vivid look at what formed his mind and imagination as he grew up here. "Free State Serenade" opens the eyes of the listener to a wild eventful ride of good, bad, mixed in with some sad and downright crazy.

Mead rips through 12 songs here, mixing up his rockabilly, "A Short Goodbye" telling the story about leaving home to head out on his own, the western swing of "Neosho Valley Sue" which would fit perfectly within any Bob Wills record, to the heavy back beat shaker of "On A Slow Train Through Arkansas" and closing with the traditional heavy blues sound of "Sittin On Top Of The Bottom."

Mixed among all of these captivating genres, Mead includes three historical stories that track straight back into Kansas lore. "The Devil By Their Side" recounts the story about the raid by Confederate guerillas who slaughtered abolitionists in Lawrence, Kansas, who were there to insure Kansas entered the Union a free state. "Little Ivy" tells the story about a small girl named Ivy Honeycutt whom Mead attended grade school with that was murdered by her cousin. Mead strikes a chord here in his chorus, describing how she was found. "Evil Wind" puts a spin on the great Truman Capote novel "In Cold Blood," telling the story about the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959. Mead writes this song and sings it from the viewpoint of one of the convicted killers, Dick Hickock. It should be mentioned, Hickock always swore he killed no one, saying his partner Perry Smith killed all four, which is perhaps why Mead tells the story from his viewpoint. The song is both chilling and fascinating, with its ability to paint a picture.

Perhaps the hidden gem here is the traditional country song "The Light Of Day." This song captures Mead at his best, vocally and lyrically.