By Matt Wickstrom
Growing up in a church-going family of crop farmers, S.G. Goodman’s beliefs and lifestyle choices were often conflicting with the views of those around her, a theme well documented on her Jim James produced debut Old Time Feeling, a diverse blend of southern storytelling covering everything from protests to love lost, the plight of farmers and the ways of the “good ole days” through an ever-changing backdrop of vintage folk, delta rock and gospel arrangements.
The artist’s mountainous vocals draw many comparisons to those of her producer for the project, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, whose high-pitched howls have long captivated fans around the globe with their emotion-packed and ferocious intensity. Goodman and James were introduced to one another by Daniel Martin Moore, a mutual friend of the two.
The album begins with “Space and Time,” a subtle folk-inspired tune with watered-down instrumentals that hand the steering wheel over to Goodman, whose vocals ebb and flow effortlessly, similar to a razor sharp knife slicing through butter, as she reminisces about the people that were a part of her upbringing and shaping of the woman that she’s become and how, whether for better or worse, she’s learned something from all of them in good time.
After the acknowledgments within “Space and Time” Goodman dives into the frustrations of southern culture in title track “Old Time Feeling,” all the while confronting her problems head-on rather than running from them as she exclaims that “The southern state is a condition, it’s true / I’ve got a little proposition for you / Stick around and work your way through / Be the change you hope to find” with a cascade of electric guitars and piano matching Goodman’s defiant righteousness.
One of the album’s most striking, yet simplistic tracks, is “Red Bird Morning,” which showcases Goodman’s lyrical imagery as she sings about her experience attending the Standing Rock protests in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and 2017. With all acoustic instrumentals, the intimate feel of the song, combined with Goodman’s detailed recollection, gives the listener the impression of not just hearing the music, but being a living, breathing part of it, almost as if they were alongside Goodman at the protests, never more vivid and dark than when the artist proclaims “See me smoking on a cigarette / Same kind that took our nana’s breath / It’s the only flame that I have left / Will it be the death of me?”
The sorrow within “Red Bird Morning” soon gives way to the foot-stomping, delta rock sounds of “The Way I Talk,” the emphatic first single from the album that dives into the plight that her family and other small farmers face as they struggle to survive, sacrificing their health and well-being for a small margin while their bosses and the industry’s big corporations continue to see big profit margins due underpaying and overworking them. These frustrations mount as Goodman sings out “And her brother’s back at home tending to her daddy’s land / He’s farming for the businessman / Who takes the profit from his hand / With calculation to the dollar of a chemical demand” as the song’s instrumental intensity builds from a simple drum beat to a full-blown medley with fuzzed-out, edgy guitar licks matching the disdain in Goodman’s voice.
Goodman returns to the ways of old-timey folk on “If It Ain’t Me Babe,” a heart-breaking tale that documents a love lost and how Goodman still looks back on it with strong emotion. Admittedly a painful song to write, the deep cut is perhaps Goodman’s most vulnerable moment on an album already overflowing with it as she recalls singing along to Neil Young as the two dance together along the kitchen floor amid the chorus “If it ain’t me, babe, it ain’t me / Right there by your side, like I used to be / If it ain’t me, babe, it ain’t me / I waste all my time hoping it could be.”
Through the struggles documented in the first nine tracks of Old Time Feeling Goodman has only grown stronger as a person and as an artist in her convictions, a feeling that is highlighted in the album’s end track “Big Girl Now,” which sees an empowered and emboldened Goodman question those who’ve doubted and left her along her journey, repeatedly poising the question “Ain’t I a big girl now?” with gospel-esque back-up vocals, coming full circle back to her childhood and musical roots in church, where she first began to sing publicly.
In response to that, it’s safe to say that Goodman has everyone, particularly her doubters and haters, listening now. In addition to being one of 2020’s top emerging new artists, Goodman’s debut has planted the seeds of what looks to be a long and prosperous career to come.
It’s also a reminder for all that you can be whoever you want to be, no matter where you’re from.
Old Time Feeling track list
- Space And Time
- Old Time Feeling
- Tender Kind
- Red Bird Morning
- The Way I Talk
- Burn Down The City
- If It Ain’t Me Babe
- Kitchen Floor
- Big Girl Now