Songwriter Billy Hartman debuted his much anticipated sophomore album "Divine Town" on October 1st. This work is an exemplary collection of relatable stories, Come to Jesus moments, and that true country singer/songwriter sound Hartman is known for.
Produced by Ben Hussey at Melody Mountain Studios, "Divine Town" is comprised of 10 acoustic-based tracks to include previously released singles "Handshakes are for Strangers" and Jack Barksdale's cowrite "Painted White Line." Duo Urban Pioneers's Liz McGovern's gorgeous (this is the right word, trust me) fiddle playing riddles the album with additions of her husband Jared's banjo throughout.
"I decided about three years ago after I wrote 'Divine Town' that I wanted to make a record with it being the title track," said Hartman. "I felt like I’d grown since [previous album] 'Beans & Cornbread;' and between having a kid and being more intentional with my guitar playing, this record was brought about. I was struggling some with coming into fatherhood and withdrawing myself from the bar/music/nightlife scene and a lot of the songs come from that."
"Somewhere I Need to Be" is the third track on the record. It's a slow finger-picked ballad with fiddle by McGovern and mandolin/dobro by Wesley Holtsford. This tune's melancholy feel is a hard reminder of life on the road, relatable to any partner who has to go in order to feed the family or fulfill a passion. Lyrics "it's a heavy load, but you know I gotta go. That ol' highway's calling me" are heart string pullers and reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt's "I'll Be Here in the Morning."
"Railroad Blues" is an upbeat yet blues tune (impressive juxtaposition) beginning with vocal cut of Hartman hoping the song goes the way he wants it to-- fitting for the song's message. "Over You" is another head nodding quick-paced piece. Devilish acoustic picking, fiery fiddle, and Hussey's eerie distortion over vocals and strings adds a haunting air over this swinging song.
"Something to Prove" is Hartman's favorite off the record ("only because of the pickle boat story"), and also ours! Hussey's shaker addition makes it the only percussion on the record. Jared picks a lighthearted staccato banjo between Liz's long fiddling. There's just something about this tune that feels like an autumn evening, windows rolled down, forcing yourself to "listen to the groove." This song has been on repeat since its release.
"Painted White Line" is a co-write with Jack Barksdale who released his version in April of 2021. Hartman's version ups the tempo and adds some Rockabilly rhythm.
"We had originally wrote ['Painted White Line'] as a beautiful finger picking song," said Hartman. "But about a year ago, I had a guitar player named Kaleb Young playing with me, and we were jamming it in the backyard one night. It evolved into the version that’s on the record."
Finishing out the album is "Handshakes are for Strangers." When asked about it, Hartman said it's his favorite to play live "because it makes [him] cry, and [he] likes that." It released August 11th. "Handshakes are for Strangers" is a mellow melody about family, finding happiness, and the overall need for love.
Album "Divine Town" is everything we hoped would follow Hartman's beloved "Beans & Cornbread." Throughout the ages of following musicians, we evolve with them as their music reflects the eras of who they are at the time. Hartman has taken us from a love (and food) filled album to a matured and respected assemblage of emotions. "Divine Town" can be found on all streaming platforms, or you can attend the album release party at Hico Hall on October 14th. Lineup for the release party includes Nick Brumley, Presley Haile, Race Ricketts, Michael Patulea, Ben Hussey, and Lucas Bevan.