Sometimes you just get a feeling that an artist appears to have the world at their feet. At just 21 years old Myron Elkins has produced a debut album fizzing with energy and promise, been produced by Dave Cobb, one of the most sort after technicians and spiritual guides in the music industry and had two songs from this album appear in the hit TV show ‘Yellowstone’. Not bad for a guy from the wilds of Michigan who was working as a welder right up until the recording of ‘Factories, Farms & Amphetamines’.
Across the album’s ten tracks, Elkins crafts sharp observations informed by his working-class upbringing, infusing his music with rich personal experience. “I actually wrote a lot of these songs on the album in my head while I was welding,” he says. Growing up, Elkins learned about classic country artists such as George Jones and Waylon Jennings via his grandfather (or “PAPAW”), who taught him how to pick guitars on the porch. Like many kids, he learned to sing in church on Sundays, and developed a deep, gravelly singing voice. When he was around 14 or 15, Elkins also started writing original music, inspired by stories he heard from family members about living in West Virginia coal camps.
And there we have the elephant in the room, folks. ‘Factories, Farms & Amphetamines’ comes across like the bastard child of Stapleton, Marcus King, the Allman Brothers, ZZ Top and a cinematic blend of Tarrantino meets the vibes of Cameron Crowe’s seminal film ‘Almost Famous’. Yet Elkins is a 21 year old, ex-welder! Crazy. He sings with a range, touch and heft that belies his tender years which makes you wonder what he will sound like and what topics Elkins will write about once life has put some miles on his clock.
Album opener ‘Sugartooth’ sets the scene, with its hypnotic mix of ZZ Top meets Marcus King auditioning for a place in a Tarrantino movie vibes. A distinctive vocal delivery that is equal parts jarring and yet also engaging grabs your attention and demands further exploration.
Across the album there is a mix of styles, all grounded in a kind of swampy, southern, heartland base. On some tracks, like the catchy ‘Hands to Myself’, you’ll hear a little Soul and a pinch of Motown and Muscle Shoals funk whilst on others, like the delightful ‘Nashville Money’, you’ll be transported back to the 70’s, resplendent in flares and scarves, as Elkins goes full Led Zeppelin on a track about the bright lights of fame and the magnetic pull of Music Row. ‘Breadwinner’, meanwhile, feels like a song pulled straight from the soundtrack of ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ or ‘Pulp Fiction’. A heady mix of aural joy and lyrical depth is at play here as Elkins uses a truly funky chorus in his exploration of the pressures of making a living in a working class town.
The Blues is writ large across ‘Factories Farms and Amphetamines’. ‘Old Trauma’ invokes echoes of Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey as Elkins lets his vocals do all the heavy lifting as the song plays out in a hypnotic, working class kind of way whilst ‘Ball and Chain’ is driven forward with a niggly guitar riff, handclaps and fantastic harmonies.
Dave Cobb and his Nashville RCA Studio A team must take huge credit for the sound, feel and delivery of this album, alongside Myron Elkins. The track ‘Machine’, possibly the most ambitious song on the album, sounds like it was recorded in the late 70s. This kind of analogue joy doesn’t come around too often these days as the song, built around an infectious bass line, begs you to get out on the dance floor and shake your moneymaker for all it’s worth but it is the title track and ‘Wrong Side of the River’ that really hints at the talent of Myron Elkins and the promise of even greater music yet to come.
‘Factories, Farms & Amphetamines’ has elements of classic Stapleton all over it. A funky undertow that builds to a catchy, Bluesy chorus sows the seeds of depth and meaning here as Elkins sings about the challenges of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Michigan. That displacement is explored further on ‘Wrong Side of the River’, a song that featured on the TV show ‘Yellowstone’ last December alongside the title track. Reflecting on ‘Wrong Side of the River’ Elkins shares, “‘This is a song that I wrote about growing up in my hometown. Most of the stuff in town was on the other side of the river from where I lived, so I kind of grew up differently than most of my peers. But not necessarily in a bad way, because it was very special to me.” That sentiment comes across loud and clear in the song as Elkins sings about being ‘born on the wrong side of the river but raised on the right side of the road.’ The song barrels along in a kind of Stapleton meets Jerry Reed fashion and is the most Country sounding track on the album. It has a cracking guitar solo full of fire and fizz and it could well be the song that breaks the album out into the wider consciousness if handled with care from Elkins’ publicity team.
‘Factories, Farms & Amphetamines’ is a tight, taut piece of work. The ten tracks crackle with energy and verve, echoing the classic Country / Rock vibes of the 70s. There’s a heft and authenticity to the stories being told by this relative tenderfoot here that is unexpected in one so young and you can feel the presence of his influences and mentors looming large as spirit guides throughout. Myron Elkins was a welder in his ‘previous’ life and that knowledge has helped him to fuse together a myriad of sounds, styles and sonic stories into something quite timeless and yet unique too, leaving ‘Factories, Farms & Amphetamines’ a molten slice of raw energy in music form. If he can capture the spirit of this record on the live stage he’s going to be one of 2023’s most in demand musicians!
Tracklist: 1. Sugartooth 2. Factories, Farms & Amphetamines 3. Hands to Myself 4. Breadwinner 5. Wrong Side of the River 6. Ball and Chain 7. Nashville Money 8. Old Trauma 9. Machine 10. Good Time Girl Release Date: 13th January Record Label: Low Country Sound / Elektra Buy ‘Factories, Farms & Amphetamines’ now