Chris Shiflett stepped outside of the Foo Fighters in 2017 to release his debut Country record West Coast Town. Under no illusion that his solo career was going to find more popularity than his work as part of the Foos, Shiflett delivered a cohesive and engaging record that more than showcased his Country sensibilities. Two years on and Shiflett is following up that record with the release of his second solo album Hard Lessons.
One thing that’s apparent from a listen through of Hard Lessons is that the album leans more into rock than West Coast Town did. Given that Shiflett is known for his incredible guitar skills, it’s no surprise that he wants to further showcase them here and he does impressively. This Ol’ World, the album’s lead single is more rock than Country, and Shiflett delivers a killer solo in the songs final moments. The song is a good indication of what to expect from the rest of Hard Lessons, an album that demands you turn the volume up high.
Album opener Liar’s Word sees Shiflett proclaiming that he’s ‘about as good as a liar’s word’ to a woman that wanted to settle down with him. Shiflett is honest in his lyrics admitting that he tried to be what she wanted but ultimately couldn’t do it. All of this is told over crunching guitars with a hazy 70s feel. On The Hardest Lessons Shiflett admits that he enjoys being on his own while acknowledging his flaws and destructive tendencies.
Elizabeth Cook features on The One You Go Home To, a playful and surprisingly perky song about enjoying an extramarital affair that you just can’t seem to end. It’s one of the strongest moments on the album and Cook’s vocals blend perfectly with Shiflett’s to create a memorable moment. Elsewhere on the record Shiflett puts a different spin on a break up with the punchy I Thought You’d Never Leave, struggles to get a woman out of his thoughts on Marfa on My Mind, and Leaving Again captures the life of a touring musician pulled away from family to spend their time with strangers.
Hard Lessons is a solid effort from Shiflett. It’s a good follow-up to West Coast Town but it doesn’t quite hit the highs that record did. Sonically it’s definitely a progression but the record loses some of the Americana charm that made West Coast Town such an addictive listen. Lyrically though the album feels more open and honest, and there are some really strong songs here. The album definitely puts Shiflett’s guitar prowess at the fore, which is fitting for an album that embraces the musician’s rock credentials.
Track list: 1. Liar’s Word 2. This Ol’ World 3. Welcome to Your First Heartache 4. The Hardest Lessons 5. The One You Go Home To 6. Fool’s Gold 7. I Thought You’d Never Leave 8. Weak Heart 9. Marfa on My Mind 10. Leaving Again 11. The Hardest Lessons (Reprise) Record label: East Beach Records and Tapes Release date: 14th June 2019 Buy Hard Lessons