To hear Brent Cobb tell it, you can draw a line from today’s class of the most celebrated country artists straight back to Shooter Jennings’ debut album, 2005’s Put the O Back in Country. One of the first LPs produced by Dave Cobb, it helped forge relationships between the Grammy-winning producer, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jamey Johnson, and some of Nashville’s best musicians, like guitarists Leroy Powell and Jason “Rowdy” Cope.
“I know for a fact that Jamey heard Shooter’s album and wanted to record an album with Dave,” says Brent Cobb, who refers to the producer as “Cousin Dave.” “And then he and Shooter were at a show in Nashville one night and were talking about the best voice in country music. Shooter told Dave, ‘If you want to hear the best voice in country music, he’s right over there.’ And it was Sturgill.”
Cobb loosely chronicles all of these connections in his easygoing new story-ballad “When Country Came Back to Town,” which arrives today with a music video depicting the Georgia native as an 80-something old man giving a history lesson to two kids. Directed by Jace Kartye (who helmed Kendell Marvel’s equally inventive “Don’t Tell Me How to Drink” video), the clip glances over Cobb’s shoulder at the pages of his book, rich with illustrations of the artists he’s singing about.
Beginning in L.A. with Jennings, “When Country Came Back to Town” winds its way to Nashville and name-checks some of today’s stars and up-and-comers: Stapleton and his wife Morgane, Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Tyler Childers, Cody Jinks, Margo Price, Adam Hood, Paul Cauthen, and a “Combs” all get shout-outs. Cobb says that “Combs” is intentionally ambiguous. “It could be about Luke or Andrew Combs. Andrew and I wrote ‘Shine on Rainy Day’ together, and Luke has been able to take a more realistic approach to country music to the mainstream radio market, which is good for everybody,” says Cobb, who’s been opening Luke Combs’ summer stadium tour.
The song ends on a laundry list of artists who have found success not just in country, but in that nebulous world known as “Americana.” “Lord knows it’s hard to name then all/but hell right off the top of my head: Isbell, Eady, Patton, Moonpies, Turnpike, Colter, and Crockett,” Cobb sings.
So did he forget anyone? Cobb admits yes. “Hank Williams III’s Lovesick, Broke, and Driftin’ album, along with Shooter’s, planted the first flags for where we are now,” he says. “I meant to count off the song with ‘1, 2, Hank 3,’ but we ran out of time.”
“When Country Came Back to Town” appears on Cobb’s upcoming album Southern Star, cut at Capricorn Sound Studios, the recording home of the Allman Brothers Band, in Macon, Georgia. Self-produced by Cobb, the album arrives Sept. 22 on his Ol’ Buddy Records and Thirty Tigers.