Andrew Gabbard: Cedar City Sweetheart [Album Review]

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Andrew Gabbard
Cedar City Sweetheart
Colemine/Karma Chief Records [2023]

He’s finally gone and done it: Andrew Gabbard made a country album. For those who jumped on board with 2021’s Homemade, this might be a slight surprise. That album was full of hazy folk-rock and psych-pop gems that may have had some twang here or there, but were mostly rooted in the sounds of 60s and 70s west coast acts, especially of the Laurel Canyon variety. However, anyone who’s been following Gabbard’s career for a while knows it was only a matter of time before he made a record like Cedar City Sweetheart, his latest set of songs for Colemine Records’ Karma Chief imprint. 

Cedar City Sweetheart feels more lightweight than Homemade, but not in a negative sense. While the previous record is full of catchy pop melodies, the lyrics often deal with weightier topics and give the album a more personal quality. Cedar City Sweetheart’s songs are a little more straightforward, but there’s still plenty to dig into. For one thing, Gabbard’s sense of humor is still fully intact, as song titles like “Lonesome Psychedelic Cowboy” and “Cool Ranch” attest. Many of the songs riff on classic country cliches both musically and lyrically, but they aren’t parody or pastiche—the sounds and turns of phrase might nod to the past, but Gabbard makes them his own. 

Cedar City Sweetheart is definitely a country record, but it’s a very specific kind of country record. Gabbard doesn’t stray that far from his more rock-oriented influences, conjuring the late 60s/early 70s “cosmic country” sound that many psychedelic acts adopted as musical trends drifted back towards a more organic approach. He’s helped out by a handful of contributors that include long-time collaborator Sven Kahns on dobro, pedal steel and lap steel; label-mate M. Ross Perkins also joins on keys. The musical touchstones are albums like The Byrds’ Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, The Flying Burrito Brothers’ The Gilded Palace Of Sin, and New Riders of the Purple Sage’s self-titled debut: “country” records filtered through sun-fried psychedelia. There are also more than a few Beach Boys-inspired harmonies (and not just on “Surfboard City”), which further drive home the west coast vibe.

Cedar City Sweetheart is, above all, a fun record. It wears its influences on its sleeve and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but there are plenty of heartfelt moments too. It’s an album-length tribute to some of Gabbard’s primary influences, but also manages to feel like an essential part of his ever-expanding discography. And when you have a track record like Gabbard’s, that’s more than enough reason to plan a visit to Cedar City.

“Cloud Of Smoke” / “Lonesome Psychedelic Cowboy” / “Get Blue”

Gram Parsons / The Byrds / Wilco

The Gabbard Brothers (2022) / Homemade (Andrew Gabbard) (2021) / Alive And Well In Ohio (Buffalo Killers) (2017) / Fluff (Andrew Gabbard) (2015) / Fireball Of Sulk (Buffalo Killers) (2014) / Heavy Reverie (Buffalo Killers) (2014) / Ohio Grass (Buffalo Killers) (2013)

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