If William Clark Green was nervous about his follow up to Rose Queen, he needn’t be. Ringling Road, his fourth album set for release on April 21st, is quite honestly, stellar. Building on the foundation set with Rachel Loy on Rose Queen, Green possibly trumps the breakout project and is poised to have the spotlight that already shines on him burn even brighter.
One of the most talented songwriters on the scene, Green writes songs that are narratives, detailing vivid pictures that range from the romantic to the intense to the colorful (even the expletives and drug references aren’t gratuitous, they fall naturally in the storyline). And just as the songs can differ, Green’s smoky vocals adjust to convey whatever the songs require from romance to sorrow to displeasure, all of which are done with authenticity.
Green’s previous albums centered around Texas towns, and Ringling Road continues that tradition. Eastland, Texas figures prominently in the title track, a place where the Ringling Brothers Circus would stop to let the elephants out to drink from the lake. The standout track doesn’t focus on cotton candy and balloons, instead it captures the slightly creepy, debaucherous vibe of a travelling freak show in a richly detailed look at the circus oddities from the bearded lady to the tattooed man and all of their proclivities. The sing along at the end, with its pulsing beat, is spot on and makes you feel as if you are in the midst of the action.
The remainder of the record includes ten additional songs all of which Green had a hand in writing, including his #1 “Sympathy.” Lead track, “Next Big Thing” perfectly sets up the album. Rootsy and gritty, the song takes a (autobiographical?) look at trying to understanding what it means to be told you’re going to hit it big, while you’re still scrambling and sacrificing along the way. “Don’t know why people keep telling me/You’re the next big thing, what’s that mean….It’s insane what you do for a broken heart and some busted strings.”
Current single “Sticks and Stones,” a roots rocker, centers on rising above the trash talking in a small town. “Yeah you believe what you wanna believe, think that you know but don’t know me yeah……I won’t be beggin’ for a second chance/Do you really think that I give a damn?” While “Old Fashioned” spells out the truth on the lack of values in society today. “Yes sir, no sir, pardon me ma’am you don’t hear it much anymore/From the punk ass kids not giving a damn hanging at the corner store…..The whole world’s going to hell.”
There’s nothing not to love about taking a chance on love in the joyous, fiddle heavy, Cajun infused “Creek Don’t Rise,” or the swaggering groove of “Going Home,” in which thinking about returning to his love releases him of his sorrows.
That’s where the joyous love songs end and the more sobering ones begin. Emotionally charged, “Final This Time,” a duet with Dani Flowers in which she delivers the biting line “there’s a reason for me leaving/he’s a whole lot better than you,” is heartbreaking. Yet, despite the lyrics and the forlorn melody expressed by the harmonica, it feels like there’s the possibility of it not being so final. In the rocking “Hey Sarah” he tries everything he can from sleeping around to going to church in order to forget an ex because he “ain’t going back to what it used to be….I’ll do whatever I’ve got to do to get over you.” Finally in “Fool Me Once” he’s willing (and wanting) to be misled even if it’s for one time because he knows it’s “so damn far-fetched for me to steal your heart.”
Co-written with Kent Finlay, “Still Think About You” closes the album on a beautifully solemn, even painful, note that had me tearing up from the first beat. The song, with its haunting harmonies and piano, will break your heart, both in the realization that the relationship ended and in the words he chooses to use in expressing his sentiments. “I know you hate me now but I wanted you to know/Didn’t care enough, but I cared enough to let you go/Oh the bitter seeds we sow/And now you’re calling me a bastard calling me a liar/Sorry that you fell in love with someone you will never inspire.”
Ringling Road is one of those rare, complete records with keen observations on life, love, and society; where the players, the lyrics and the melodies are the attractions, and Green the self-assured ringmaster in the big top.
Purchase Ringling Road here
NB. Definitely purchase a physical copy of Ringling Road for the phenomenal artwork which was once again done by the extremely talented and Grammy winning ladies at Backstage Design.