Nashville-based, South Carolina-born singer-songwriter Mac Leaphart’s upcoming album, Music City Joke, offers his strongest batch of songs to date. The 10-song collection, set for release on Feb. 12, 2021, finds Leaphart at his very best: wry, rugged, and recharged, singing songs that conjure up memories of front porches, honky tonks, heartbreaks, and dive bars. Wide Open Country notes “Blame on the Bottle,” the album’s lead single, “channels the humor and heart of folk heroes like John Prine and Hayes Carll.”
Produced by Brad Jones (Hayes Carll), Music City Joke is a rallying cry from an artist who has spent more than a decade paying his dues and whittling his craft, joined by a team of longtime Nashville staples, including Fats Kaplan, Will Kimbrough, and Matt Menefee, as the soundtrack to his lyric-driven, story-based songwriting.
The album kicks off with a reimagined version of “El Paso Kid,” which originally appeared on Leaphart’s 2015 release, Low in the Saddle, Long in the Tooth. “Blame on the Bottle,” inspired by a preacher on the left end of the radio dial, examines both self-will and self-righteousness just the same. The rollicking “Honey, Shake” is the purest example of Leaphart’s Southern rock-inspired upbringing.
“Ballad of Bob Yamaha or A Simple Plea in C Major” is an ode to Shel Silverstein and a shining example of Leaphart’s dedication to smartly written songs, written from the perspective of a weathered guitar that just wants to be played by someone who really knows their way up and down the frets.
The album’s mid-point is the title track, inspired by Leaphart’s move from the South Carolina Lowcountry to Nashville. “I was attempting to make it big as a writer of some of those big country hits you hear on the radio, and it wasn’t too long before I realized writing those smash hits wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t chuckling at Nashville anymore,” Leaphart says. “Nope, the joke was on me. I peeled the ‘kick me’ sign off my back and got down to focusing on my songwriting like never before–writing late at night and performing at writers’ rounds to see what stuck and what didn’t. And here it is: the song, the album…and the punchline.”
“That Train” continues to showcase Leaphart’s signature style, mixing twang, tempo, and tightly-constructed lyrics into the same package. “Window From The Sky” offers a stripped-down take on how much good a change in perspective can do. “Every Day” is a look into the dynamics of a relationship, while “Division Street” laments a tiny, shared apartment, close living spaces, and the eye-opening experience of living inside “the party house.”
Before earning his stripes as a road warrior, Leaphart launched his career in South Carolina, where he balanced a nighttime gig as a bartender with a steadily-increasing stream of shows. Leaphart’s first album, Line, Rope, Etc., was released in 2009, and a few years later, in 2012, he took his signature sound with him to Nashville. There, he has launched a popular recurring songwriter’s night called Southpaw Social Club and strengthened his own writing chops, penning songs for other artists’ albums as well as his own. Low in the Saddle, Long in the Tooth arrived in 2015, followed by Lightning Bob – featuring collaborations with Sadler Vaden – in 2018.
Leaphart — now a husband and father — received a reviving kickstart later that year when he was named a winner of the prestigious Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Competition.
Music City Joke Track Listing:
1. El Paso Kid