Essential New Music: Tobacco City’s “Tobacco City, USA”

If you name your country band Tobacco City, you’re duty bound to play some songs about bad decisions. The Chicago combo discharges that obligation in good, old-fashioned style. Nick Usalis’ pedal steel practically weeps on semi-eponymous theme “Tobacco City Waltz,” hovering over Chris Coleslaw and Lexi Goddard’s harmonies like a raincloud as they relate the sorry details of some ill-considered statements that have led to some deeply regretted actions. And given their druthers, they’d make some of those mistakes again. The revved-up rhythm and rapid-fire exchanges between the two singers on “AA Blues” leave little doubt that the song’s protagonists remember their nights of drinking and dancing far more specifically than they do the consequences that have forced them into daily-meeting-dependent recovery. 

The dubious decision-making stops when it gets to the actual music. The members of Tobacco City keep things sturdy and simple. Their playing is brisk, and if their performances aren’t live in the studio, they sound like they could be. Goddard and Coleslaw deliver their lines with good humor, but you never get the sense that they have anything less than total regard for their sources. And they aren’t precious purists; there’s as much 1970s soul as country in Goddard’s delivery on the aching “Never On My Mind.” If there’s a fault to Tobacco City, USA, it’s that it leaves you wanting more.

—Bill Meyer