Indie country artists throughout the American underground have been taking hold of their genre like nobody’s business lately, and for the best example of what I mean, just take a look at the new record from Carlos Washington’s Steel Horse Swing, Little Bit of Texas. Built on the back of warm vocal harmonies and a rhythmic sway that does everything we’d expect it to and more, Little Bit of Texas is a record that was tailor-made for country’s most dedicated followers, but it isn’t so puritanical that the occasional fan couldn’t get swept away by its ten songs just the same.
Carlos Washington’s Steel Horse Swing had no room for filler when they set out to construct Little Bit of Texas, and in the thirty-two minutes the album lasts, you won’t find any material that would appear to have been slapped together in a last minute effort to fill out the tracklist. We begin with “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” and immediately drift into the adrenaline-laced title cut before returning to the balladry of a soft “Sugar Moon,” with little to no silence coming between the transitions from one song to the next. In a lot of ways, this LP is like one giant concert medley – once it’s off and running, there’s no stopping it (nor is there telling where it will take us next).
I would have started the album off with “The King of Western Swing” and “I’m Coming Home” instead of rounding it out with these two tracks, but only to make the climactic release of tension in “House of Blue Lights” the final song on the record. The truth of the matter is this; you don’t have to start at the beginning and work your way through Little Bit of Texas to appreciate songs like “Miss Molly” and “I Am a Cowboy Y’all,” but depending on the order in which you consume this content, it’s going to impact how you break down what Washington is actually singing about here.
Lately I’ve been a little discontent with the vocalists in the country music mainstream, but after listening to Mr. Carlos Washington go after the mic in “My Little Red Wagon,” “It Was Love at First Swing” and the title track in Little Bit of Texas, I feel like I’ve found what I’ve been looking for since the early 2010’s. He’s got the smoothest style of attack I’ve heard in a long time, and if there was one major change I would make in his new LP, it would probably be to add just a few more ballads to allow for him to show us everything he can do with those pipes of his.
Carlos Washington’s Steel Horse Swing are just now getting some attention from the press, but for my money, they’re one of the hottest new country acts to make waves in 2019 and 2020 (and I don’t see that changing anytime soon). They’ve got the necessary pieces to go a long way with this sound, and now, it’s just a matter of exploiting their shared gifts for everything they’re worth.