Cub Country – Stay Poor/Stay Happy

Cub Country
Stay Poor/Stay Happy

Once begun as a side project for Jimmy Chatelain, ex-Handsome and bass player for Jets to Brazil, Cub Country has evolved into a full-time gig, allowing this singer/songwriter to stretch his musical legs and fully develop his own strong voice. And Chatelain does have a strong voice, his words deeply moving and his delivery extremely smooth. It’s only fitting that he has his own project, and with Cub Country’s second full-length, Stay Poor/Stay Happy, Chatelain proves his impressive talents.

Equal parts Americana and mid-tempo indie-rock, Cub Country hints at older Wilco or Sun Volt, classic Willie Nelson, and more recent Jets to Brazil. Sparkling electric guitar solos mix with softly paced country-twang of acoustic guitar, and the result is an evolution of the Americana sound – not so much alt-country but indie-rock with country and folk influences. With beautifully written songs, the result is something extremely endearing.

The light strands of synths backing the sweetly country tempo of “Be Yer Own Hitman” gives the sense the album is going to be one big throwback, but “Missed the Train” is an up-tempo rocker. Think My Morning Jacket, with its catchy beat and guitar focus. “O Holy Bridge” feels more traditional, with its harmonica and stand-up bass, while “Leaving the Bar” is lovely, male and female vocals mixing over a soft pace. “The West” brings back the more up-tempo rock and electric guitars, and “The Sun” closes with a quiet, singer/songwriter style.

Without a single bad song here, some still shine brighter, from the gorgeous country-esque “The Salt Islands” with its melancholy story to tell to the pure brilliance of “If We Should Fall.” There’s no real country on the latter, just a stark telling of a bittersweet song. “If you’re lost along the way / I would try to be your light and help you on the way,” he sings a tad forlornly, before the most gorgeous classical-style guitar comes in. “59 Grand” is over eight minutes long and never feels it. It’s soft and quiet and moving in its own way.

We all know that Jets to Brazil was primarily the project of Blake Schwarzenbach, but having heard Jimmy Chatelain’s own project, it’s easy to hear the influence Chatelain had on that other band as well. This is pure songwriting at its finest, showing influences from the last 30 years but with a unique and strong voice all its own. This one’s highly recommended.