Though the title of Koe Wetzel’s fifth studio album might suggest otherwise, you’re gonna wanna have a seat and stay a while.
But if you’re expecting to sit here and have a conversation about how this record is “not country,” I’d save my breathe…
Because that’s exactly right. It isn’t country by any means, but it is that classic, alternative Texas rock sound we all know and love from Koe, and that’s exactly what he was going for here:
“We’re throwing out all the stops on this record. It’s more alternative, southern rock, heavier rock than what we’re used to. But I wanted this record to be that before I started making my country music.
This record does have some country sounding songs, but overall it’s more of an alternative record.
I just wanted to go in and kinda give everybody somethin’ to chew on before they got the full country record.”
Honestly, I liked every single song on Hell Paso for a different reason, so of course, I always encourage you to go listen to the record in it’s entirety, because that’s the way it’s meant to be heard and you’ll definitely get the most out of it that way.
But in case you want a more specific place just to get started, I’m going to get to a few of my early favorite’s on what is certainly another solid addition to the Koe Wetzel discography.
And to quickly note, I know there’s people who can’t stand the little talking bits in between the different songs, which he also included on Harold Saul High and Sellout. And I do see where it can feel a little bit cheesy at times, but in this particular instance, I think it really works quite well.
He sets everyone up for the fact that this record isn’t country (and isn’t supposed to be), though that is coming, without sacrificing the integrity of the rest of the songs that really are classic Koe in the best way possible.
Here we go…
I had to highlight this song, simply from a production standpoint. It has a really neat blend of the country, rock and latin genres, with some cool guitar and drum instrumentation that does make you wish you were sitting on the beach in Cabo.
He details how a girl takes advantage him after she “fucked him for his money,” and then “snorted all his candy,” then lets all her friends in on the secret as they line up outside of his hotel door to get in on the action.
I would almost put it in the same group with songs like “Sancho,” and “Powerball,” but it is a bit different for him sonically with the aforementioned elements. The subject matter is classic Koe, though, and you certainly won’t find another song like it anywhere else.
I think this one will become a fast fan-favorite, and from a lyrical perspective, it features some of the best on the whole record. I love the concept of how it’s been “three weeks” since his breakup, as he details all the things that haven’t taken as long as he thought they would to change after the relationship ended.
On the other hand, there are certain things that he does miss, which have also come to light in the three weeks he’s spent alone missing this girl.
I would venture to say it’s in my top three songs on this new project:
On the next track “Cheers,” we hear another bit which features Koe saying in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t care what people are going to say about which genre he should be required to stay in, smashing a glass after addressing the “country” debate head-on:
“Here’s to, uh, everyone that’s enjoyed the record so far. Here’s to everybody who’s hated the record so far.
And here’s to everybody else that’s goin’, ‘This isn’t country music. He don’t know what country music is. He’s such a disgrace to country music.'”
The next one I really loved right off the bat was “YellaBush Road.” This song is another easy standout for me, simply for the fact that it addresses subject matter I don’t think we get to hear too often from Koe.
He talks about how he’s missing home, where he grew up on YellaBush road, and remarks on how he hasn’t seen any pine trees since last Christmas. He calls his parents, who tell him everybody back him is doing great, and that they still can’t get over hearing him on the radio.
He knows he should be thankful for all the success he’s having, but at the end of the day, he’s “just a poor motherfucker that grew up on YellaBush road.”
It’s a pretty introspective moment on the record, where he grapples with his fame and success in a way we’ve never really heard before. And that makes sense, because he has exploded even since his last record Sellout, which was his major label debut with Sony records.
Ultimately, it sounds like he dismisses his homesick thoughts, whether he wants to or not, simply for the fact that he’s “way too blessed to bitch today.”
Of course, as soon as I saw this title on the tracklist before I even heard it, I knew I was going to love it. There was no way a Koe tune titled “Sad Song” wouldn’t be right up my alley.
And after listening to it a few times, I think it will become another quick fan-favorite.
Koe addresses a breakup again here, where he takes a lot of the blame for how things transpired, and admits that the girl could actually write “a better sad song than me,” because of how he hurt her… though he doesn’t get through the song without taking a few shots at her and her family, too.
I’ve already had this one on repeat:
“To Be Continued”
This is one of the songs I was most intrigued to hear initially. Koe had mentioned before that the closing track would be a preview of the country record, and he certainly delivered.
This one is a raw, off the cuff, acoustic piece of what is likely a forthcoming song on that album, and I think we’re in for a real treat when Koe goes full country…
He also said on the podcast that he’s not going to half-ass it, and from what I’ve heard of this, I seriously cannot wait to hear everything else he’s cooked up for that project:
“I have done nothing but lie to you I became the master of hiding the truth But lately I’m starting to feel bad about it And that’s not me
I can’t even tell you I am anymore The pills I’m prescribed came from next door Maybe, just maybe, they’ll make me the man I used to be But if they don’t…”
I’ve also been loving “Oklahoma Sun” and “Better Without You” right off the bat, too. There’s just so much good stuff to get into, it’s nearly impossible to narrow it down to a small handful of songs.
And all in all, I think it’s safe to say that Hell Paso was well-worth the wait.
It’s not a huge departure from his sound by any means, but each and every song shows off the most endearing parts of who Koe is as an artist, and person, in a different way.
He never holds anything back, and has this certain way of putting things that is so true to who he is that I don’t know how you can’t help but love it.
In a world full of artists who jump on trends and copy whatever the hot “thing” is at the moment, you can always count on Koe to bring everything he has to the table in a way that is uniquely him… the good, the bad and the ugly.
That’s one of my favorite things about him, and I couldn’t be more excited to have another Koe record out in the world to enjoy.
And while the trip through the tracklist isn’t always smooth, and you get to hear about all the bumps it took for him to get where he is now, it’s certainly an unforgettable ride to say the least.
I don’t know if Hell Paso is a real place for Koe, or what exactly that means, but getting to wherever it is and learning that place is a journey that’s well-worth going on.
And once you reach your destination, you’ll be certain you’ve never been anywhere like it before.