This is simple; this is stripped-down; this is a genre of country music I would call “regret adventures.” This is Joe Fletcher’s latest album, You’ve Got the Wrong Man.
One thing should be instantly clear: invoking the ghost of Hank Williams can only ever be a good sign. Fletcher does so in the very second song off the album, “Haint Blue Cadillac,” and the song doesn’t take Hank’s name in vain. As a country singer, if your goal is to write songs Hank Williams would approve of, you can’t really go wrong.
“Miss Red” shows us exactly how to do a breakup song – cursing for days? Exactly! Never mind curling up in a sad ball and feeling feelings. That’s boring. Get mad at your foolishness in losing the person you liked and swear a lot. Also, if you happen to open any letters from said ex, close them immediately and instead open a beer. Advice for living.
I think “Heart in a Mousetrap” hits some kind of country jackpot. In the very first line, we’ve got the words “big city,” “wildfire,” and “coal mine.” This song is the sound of the little country-song slot machine hitting all 7s.
But there’s something else really interesting on this album. Beyond it being great under the power of its own spareness, a couple of songs sounded very Dan Bern to me. And that might mean he sounds country to some people, but part of it is the tone, the phrasing, and the subject matter. “Life of the Party” could be a Dan Bern song, and if you told me that “Oceanside Motel” was Fletcher’s country variation on Bern’s “Chelsea Hotel,” I would believe you. I’m not saying it’s derivative! Just that one thing I enjoy reminded me of another. And that if you give You’ve Got the Wrong Man a listen and like it, you may also enjoy looking into Dan Bern.
I don’t know what my favorite song is on the album, but a contender has to be “The Wilsons,” because look at the opening line: “We don’t know why the house exploded…” and it just gets better from there. I’ve decided that from now on, everyone has to start songs by alluding to, and then not explaining at all, mysterious house explosions. Consider your favorite song. Wouldn’t it be better with an exploding house at the beginning? I THOUGHT SO.