Chad Sullins: "Honky Tonk Heaven"
Chad Sullins: “Honky Tonk Heaven”
By Tonya Little
Chad Sullins has a new song dropping May 26 called “Honky Tonk Heaven”. I’ve had the chance to preview the song, and have probably listened to it a dozen times in just a few days. Yes, it’s that good. Although it has a bit of a different sound from Sullins’ older library of music, it also still holds that signature melancholy flavor as well as being real and raw, things Sullins has always been great at.
Now let me veer a bit off subject here and admit that I might be a bit biased. Not only do I love Sullins’ music and voice, having been a long time fan for many years, but I've also been a long time friend as well. Sullins and The Last Call Coalition are actually how I found this scene, they were “My” band for many years. They are the whole reason I have this big amazing red dirt music family. So I have a big soft spot of loyalty and love for all of them, something that can’t be easily shaken. You can actually read more about how I met the band and my experiences with them in the article I wrote about them announcing their split, here.
Now back to the subject at hand. “Honky Tonk Heaven” was recorded at Eclipse Studio in Bloomington, Illinois with a slew of local musicians from that area. On lead guitar is Nate Van Vleet, Erik Nelson is on keys, Zach Linley on acoustic guitar, Brandon Frederking on drums, Chad Sherman on bass, Jason Beck on electric rhythm guitar and Scott Rexroad on pedal steel. Now if that sounds like a lot of players for one song, then you’ll fully understand just how full and layered this song sounds. It definitely has a “big” sound to it at times. At four minutes and 25 seconds, it’s also a good chunk of a song, but not only does it use that time well, but it’s also well worth the time. It doesn’t feel long or drawn out, the length serves the story of the song perfectly. In fact you don’t even notice that it’s been four and a half minutes, because it sucks you in and you are only focused on the tune and not the time.
“Honky Tonk Heaven” starts off with beautiful yet slightly sorrowful piano notes before breaking into the rest of the instrumentals and the story of how to get to Honky Tonk heaven, advice given to a young musician by an “old barstool prophet with nothing to lose”. The instrumentals are very well done and well blended, and it definitely has the honky tonk blues sound, with just an edge and hint of a little rock and roll as well. I wouldn't expect anything less with Sullins. The pedal steel and piano adds just the perfect mix, making the music as poignantly beautiful as the lyrics are.
Sullins’ voice has his signature gravelly texture, but it’s also clear and strong and he delivers the lyrics perfectly, slowing down and speeding up as the emotion of the song comes in waves. It weaves the classic story of the life of a musician, courting the bottle, the spotlight and all the honky tonk angels calling their name. The old timer in the song explains that to get to Honky Tonk heaven first you gotta go through hell. His advice on how to achieve that: “Just drink a few thousand bottles, break a good woman’s heart, when you hit rock bottom son that’s a good start”. It’ll hit you in all the feels, especially if you’ve ever been there or watched someone you care about go through the same experiences. Which let’s face it, in this music scene that’s just about everyone in one way or another, at one time or another. It’s a real and raw look at life in the spotlight, full of heartbreak and lessons learned. The best advice the man at the bar offers, “the spotlight can’t warm you on a long winter night, so find a good girl to hold you and you best treat her right.” It’s clear by the end of the song, that the reason the old timer knows so much is that he learned all these lessons the hard way, and is trying to save the young man from doing the same. However we all know that you just can’t save someone from their own lessons, no matter how hard you try.
The song is fantastic, and I can only imagine that hearing it live will be even better. I can imagine a dance floor full of people slow dancing to the tune, it’ll definitely be a good one to do it to. You can check out a 30 second promo clip music video by Tony Thompson here.
“Well I'm pretty excited about this new single and about the future. I'm looking forward to new things. I still haven't come up with a name for the new record. But I'm sure it will come to me,” said Sullins about the new tune. “This song will be 1 of 2 singles I plan on dropping from this record and I'm just pumped for the fans to hear what I've been working on this last year. And for the first time in a while I'm looking forward to the road ahead.”
We’re looking forward to it too. You can get your copy of "Honky Tonk Heaven" on Itunes on May 26, don’t miss out!