Since the release of The Josh Abbott Band’s 2014 album Tuesday Night, the band has been busy. On November 6th, the Texans will debut the fruits of that labor, the 16-track Front Row Seat, a cinematic storytelling tinted with Texas twang and diverse sonic styles. The album may be the band’s most experimental and reaching yet; lead single “Amnesia,” for instance, creeps in on smoky vocals and builds to a angst-filled high, forgoing the fiddle in the process.
“I wrote the song with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, who are hit makers out here,” Abbott says. He wrote “Hanging Around,” which they singled from Tuesday Night, with McAnally and Osborne as well, but “Amnesia” serves as a much larger sonic departure. “Shane and I were talking before the other Josh got there and he was talking about how he loves to write weird songs,” Abbott says. Abbott was tired of sitting down seeking to write a fun, uptempo single, and just wanted to write something he felt strongly about. McAnally suggested the title “Amnesia,” and the trio built from there.
“When I took it to the band, in terms of the melody, a lot of it was already there, and I thought we just added some really cool elements in the studio,” he says. The band dynamic allows each of their instrumental skills to lead in shaping the record, making for sonic choices like including second-verse piano and a twin guitar part, and leaving the fiddle at home. “On this album we wanted to do some different stuff and let people hear a different side of us. Particularly for that song we wanted it to be a little darker,” Abbott shares.
Front Row Seat is a sonic departure for the band, presented in a cinematic frame. The title track sets up the album in a dramatic fashion, and the entire body draws on that theme, separating the album into theatrical acts with three songs in each act.
“The first act is ‘Exposition,’ which is the introduction of characters in a movie or play,” Abbott says. “So those are the three songs about having fun and being single and young. Act two is ‘Incitation,’ which in a movie is the inciting incident, which after you’ve met the main characters is makes you want to watch the plot for the rest of the movie, the hook. In our story here it’s falling in love. Act three is ‘Intimacy,’ which really represents that next level. I’m hesitant to necessarily just call it marriage because there’s a lot of people who have very serious relationships that aren’t married. Act four is ‘Dissolution,’ and that’s the divorce or separation of people who were in love. Then act five is this french term that’s used in plays called ‘Dénouement,’ and it’s basically how the main characters of the play adapt to life post the tragic incident or the climax of the movie or play. So we fit all these songs into those five categories so that literally from front to back it’s a story, a chronological meeting someone, falling in love, ending it, and moving on with your life.”
Not only does the structure of the album step outside the expected country box, many of the songs push the boundaries of what the band’s fans have grown to expect, but the group is confident in the music they’ve created.
“We’re really excited about it,” Abbott says. “We hope everyone will listen to the album and see a band that’s grown up a little bit. No band wants to make the same album twice.”
Abbott had a hand in writing all but five of the songs, the others finds from former label deals or recommendations from friends. “Born To Break Your Heart,” for instance, was first shown to the singer by fellow Texan Randy Rogers. “[That’s] a song that Randy Rogers actually had first and he let me listen to it on his bus,” Abbott says. “At the time I was going through some stuff that really resonated with the song and was definitely just, you know, really made me emotional.”
Front Row Seat is available November 6.
Act 1 – Exposition
1. While I’m Young
2. I’ve Been Known
3. Live It While You Got It
Act 2 – Incitation
4. Wasn’t That Drunk (w/ Carly Pearce)
5. Kiss You Good
6. If It Makes You Feel Good
Act 3 – Intimacy
7. Crazy Things
8. Front Row Seat
9. Kisses We Steal
Act 4 – Dissolution
11. Born To Break Your Heart
12. This Isn’t Easy
Act 5 – Dénouement
13. Intro – A Loss Of Memory