Randy Weeks may not be a household name, but you've probably heard his song "Can't Let Go" from Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road album. She even performed it on Saturday Night Live! I've been a longtime Randy Weeks fan. His first solo CD, Madeline, has a permanent place in my "top 25 most-played" playlist. As you might expect, I was delighted to receive his latest CD, Going My Way.
Weeks started his musical career as one of the early purveyors of southern California roots music. He was a founding member of the Lonesome Strangers, whose first 1986 release, Lonesome Pine, was produced by Dwight Yoakum's guitar player, Pete Anderson. The Lonesome Strangers also toured with Yoakum and Dave Alvin during the late 80's. They made two more albums, The Lonesome Strangers in 1989 and Land of Opportunity in 1997. According to Weeks, "Life in LA was comfortable – maybe a little too comfortable. I knew I could count on a packed house at every gig and I lived in a cool little shack three blocks from the beach."
In 2007 Weeks moved from California to Austin, Texas, when he felt "it became time to shake things up." Shortly after arriving Weeks met multi-instrumentalist Will Sexton, younger brother of guitar-slingser Charlie Sexton, who produced Going My Way. Sexton enlisted an impressive group of top-tier Austin musicians for the project, including guitarist Tony Gilkyson, steel player Cindy Cashdollar and Rick Richards and Eliza Gilkyson for backing vocals. He says that because of the group's talent, "We didn't have to spend a lot of time agonizing over each track. Two or three takes and we were able to move on."
During the opening song "Couldn't Make It" Randy Weeks sounds like he's channeling Lou Reed, but when the chorus kicks in he shifts back into his own, more musical, persona. His songs combine gritty edges with catchy melodies to create a happy synthesis of these two usually diametrically opposed musical extremes. "That's What I'd Do" could sound right at home as a cut from a Carpenter's album – it features starry-eyed lyrics and cheesy orchestration reinforced by Mark Hallman's accordion part. Contrast this musical bon-bon with the dark miasma contained in "Get Me to The Shelter" and you get an idea of Week's musical scope. But whether it's a sunny situation or a dark mood, Week's songs always have a catchy hummable quality that keeps them rotating in your head long after they've stopped playing.