Premiere: Justin Golden Breathes New Life Into “Downtown Blues” With Devil’s Coattails

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As early glimpses and previews of upcoming releases start to emerge, it’s becoming clear that 2024 is already on pace to be another incredible year for Richmond music. One of the first records that’s bound to blow away the scene is the latest release from Vocal Rest Records that’s joining one of the most sensational musicians in the area with one of the most ingenious groups. Golden Country Volume 1 by Justin Golden with Devil’s Coattails is an album of traditional songs curated by Golden himself, who is also contributing an original composition to the record.

Set for release on Friday, January 12th, the thrilling collaboration is dropping some early previews of the record before 2023 comes to a close with a single release for “Downtown Blues” and “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer” on Wednesday, December 20th. Each song showcases vibrant musicianship and faithful vision that makes these vintage numbers take new life in a new era, something this new record will proudly display next month. Today though, The Auricular is proud to give you an even earlier preview of that album with an exclusive stream of “Downtown Blues” and some background into this colorful take on a classic statement.


“Downtown Blues” tracks its recording history back almost a full century when blues musician Frank Stokes entered the studio for Victor Records in February 1928. Affectionately regarded as the father of Memphis blues guitar, Stokes was one of the most recorded blues musicians of the 1920s, whether in solo recordings with just his guitar and voice or as part of the Beale Street Sheiks alongside fellow guitarist Dan Sane. Stokes’ music has persisted in the decades since those first recordings with beloved compilations of his Victor Records sessions and later Paramount recordings popping up in every decade from the 1970s through to the 2010s.

Stokes’ original recording of the song — later stylized “Downtown Blues (Take 1)” to differentiate it from another recording with altered lyrics — captures the raw and authentic sound of early Memphis blues, where the symbiotic relationship between vocals and guitar drove the emotional resonance of the music. Golden retains that harmonious balance but also expands the sonic palette with additional layers that bring out the roots elements of the traditional blues sound. With banjo, bass, and percussion, the result is a spirited affair that’s instantly captivating.

And I’m goin’ downtown, gonna stay round town till dark,” Golden belts with pure blues timbre while the band paints a more rustic and alpine soundscape around him. It’s a rich contrast that lets the blues storytelling stretch far from its Memphis roots while still retaining its conventional tone. The cover is richly arranged as well, evoking memories of campfire jams and outdoor swings that bring warmth and zest to this cold, reclining time of year, something we’ll all need come mid January when Golden Country Volume 1 is released.

Golden previously struck gold back in 2022 with the release of Hard Times And A Woman, a riveting record that blended blues and roots music into a sublime sound. The dynamic record was celebrated by publications like No Depression and Americana Highways and was also included on the shortlist for the 2023 Newlin Music Prize. Devil’s Coattails also made waves back in 2022 with the release of their self-titled album on Vocal Rest Records, a lively record that sets the foundation for the band’s multi-genre appeal, akin to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the legendary backing group also known as The Swampers.

Golden Country Volume 1 will feature a core of musicians known for their crafty skill and captivating sound: Justin Golden (vocals, acoustic & slide guitar), Trey Burnart Hall (mandolin, tenor banjo, electric guitar), Chris Gatens (upright bass, clawhammer banjo), Drew Barnocky (drums, washboard). Also joining them are a slew of guest musicians who’ve played with local heavyweights like No BS! Brass, McKinley Dixon, and Tim Barry such as Charlie Frise (trumpet), Stephen Roach (keys), Rudy Bzdyk (fiddle), Stephen Kuester (pedal steel), and Andrew Alli (harmonica). Vocal Rest head Trey Burnart Hall served as producer for the record, while the tracking, mixing, and mastering were handled by prolific engineer Allen Bergendahl, who has worked on other Vocal Rest releases in the past like Mackenzie Roark’s Rollin’ High, Feelin’ Low. Finally, the album and single artwork were designed by Daniel Torraca, which builds the modern retro aesthetic with a colorful pastiche reminiscent of early 20th-century releases.

2024 can’t come soon enough it seems, but until then, grab some much-needed energy as the end of the year approaches with “Downtown Blues,” and make sure to put a reminder in your calendar this coming Wednesday when you can get some more energy with “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.”

“Downtown Blues” and “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer” are set for release on Wednesday, December 20th, with Golden Country Volume 1 coming out the following month on Friday, January 12th. For more information, make sure to head over to Vocal Rest Records’ website and also give them a follow on Instagram so you can stay up-to-date on all their future news and releases.


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