With Halden Wofford & the Hi*Beams’ sixth studio album, Hard Core Broken Heart, now out Halden says, “It was supposed to have a fun vibe,” and being produced by Honky-Tonk legend Bill Kirchen it also has a very stripped down, straight forward live approach, and is mostly light hearted.
Hard Core Broken Heart starts off asking the musical questions, like what can you do with a broken heart, can you clean it up and get replacement parts? What if your words are all misunderstood? What if you are full of bigotry and hate? What if that’s why you can’t concentrate? Is there an answer? Mama says that the bible says let there be love. That’s Bill trading licks with Bret on the solo and Halden Wofford asking the essential questions of life.
Little Rig is Halden’s shot at writing a trucker’s tune for this recording and includes one of Bret’s best harmonica parts and Greg trading powerful licks with Bill and jamming at the end with some fun trucker jargon on the CB.
Ashes on the Dance floor is sort of an epitaph and will that Halden leaves us with; some of his best vocals on this record are over the moody, ever melodic steel and guitar riffs. He says don’t be blue but spread my ashes on the dance floor and gather around the bar play some heartfelt steel guitar as Bret does so well here. A simple but very touching song from Colorado’s already most legendary honky tonk hero.
Billings Rabbit Ears Polka a tune he wrote a while ago fits in just fine here as a bouncy fun tune, Bill answers Greg on his great mandolin solo; some fine playing going on between these first-rate musicians.
Womb to the Tomb is a tune Bill Kirchen wrote for the record. Bill, known as the Titan of the Telecaster, the founding father of the “twang-core movement,” shows his ability to write great trucker songs. Damon starts it off with a march like drum and a line from Halden talking about being broke down on the highway with a truck load of filets learning to swim again. As a phantom trucker miraculously fixes his broke down truck so he can help him on his run from the womb to the tomb.
Damon Smith wrote 30 pack and showcases his ability to write fun tunes and his love of large packages of cold beer. Great ensemble playing here by the guys, and they even leave room for opening a bunch of pop tops, it’s a special deal. You can’t go wrong with a 30 pack!
The Swag was the instrumental “B” side of The Legendary Hillbilly Wolf, Link Wray’s big hit the Rumble in 1958. Wray was hoping for a new dance craze I think. Halden’s lyrics fit right in. He does the Swag to get over the things he lacks and claims dealing with the devil can’t be half bad cause you get Swag. Although Halden’s does say as he gets older he would have considered selling his soul to the devil for some Swag, like Robert Johnson, but the damn devil just never showed up when he went to the crossroads. He says he can’t even catch a break even from Satan.
The Crossing starts off with a spaghetti sounding guitar joined by harmonica, then Damon and Ben propelling this tune while the guitar and harp dance above the groove.
After listening to the album, I was struck by the last tune “Always Remembered” and thought it was out of place on a Hi*Beams record, Mollie O’Brien sings Halden’s fantastic lyrics wonderfully, but so pretty it took me back and it confused me I admit. Knowing Halden’s penchant for achieving a sense of mystery in his lyrics I hesitated to ask but I felt I had to understand this beautiful and plaintive song after all the lighthearted material. This tune was written around the same time as the others, but Halden wanted a female to sing it and, “Mollie, who has god in her voice was perfect.” He realized it was different and was challenged by that. This honky-tonk man is a much more universal humanitarian then we realize. This song is about “MLK, his courage and non-violence, and how to this day, hands can be raised up in anger, in haste, as a waste, without thinking, thought of as protection, or raised up in fear. Or they can reach out and hold another. Because we have a choice. It is about never forgetting the choice of non-violence.” What a great song that really does fit in so well.