Honeysuckle & Lightning Bugs
Atlanta-based Blanco Brown spent years accumulating writing and production credits with hitmakers in pop, hip-hop, and country while also developing a hybrid he dubbed “trailer trap”—all he needed was the right moment to roll it out. Several jillion streams of “Old Town Road” later, that moment has assuredly arrived, and Brown’s arch hoedown riff “The Git Up” spawned a bit of a dance craze, and a country chart hit (largely through streaming rather than radio) in its own right. The song appears on his debut album for a Nashville country label, Honeysuckle & Lightning Bugs, a distinctive, demo-like collage of ideas otherwise populated with Southern-accented excursions into nostalgia and heartache.
A lot of Brown’s tracks are built on familiar country and R&B song structures, but are also musically playful. In “Funky Tonk,” he toys with the tension between a twangy, kinetic guitar figure and a skittery hi-hat and snare pattern and booming 808 bass—the kind of beat that a lot of hip-hop-indebted country has tended to dilute. Some of his most interesting innovations are in his vocal sounds—the fractured country-soul crooning and glitchy effects of “Temporary Insanity”; the contrast in “Don’t Love Her” between verses sung with a knowing drawl and a hook executed with new-school doo-wop harmonies; the progression in “Georgia Power” from rough-edged, melancholy emoting to glossy stacked voices and an antic sing-rapped flow that suggests square-dance calling. Brown’s clearly acquainted with the many format-spanning iterations of countrified hip-hop that precede him, but thinking for himself.