A Breath of Fresh Old-School Country Air: TJ Hernandez, "Who I Am"

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TJ Hernandez Who I Am

It’s amazing to me how modern country music has lost its differentiation from other forms of modern music, like it sold its soul to rock and roll. Today it all seems like just rock music with just a touch of country added, no doubt to stay more mainstream and modern.

What a breath of fresh air it was, then, for me to listen to WHO I AM from TJ Hernandez.

Immediately upon clicking on the first track in my player, I realized I wasn’t listening to mainstream country pop music. (Huzzah!) I was listening to old school country--in voice, lyrics and musicianship, this was country music as it was when it was known as Country and Western!

The songs are lyrical stories, with the first song, “Corporate Man,” being a well-constructed song. Just by reading the lyrics you would say, “This is a Country & Western song.” And with its pedal steel and twangy guitar, it completes the picture.

“100 Years Too Late” had a flow to it to me that is very reminiscent of the vocal sound I hear when listening to The Earl Scruggs Review with a southern rhythm reminiscent of early Marshall Tucker.

My favorite song on the album is “Aint Gonna Change.” It’s a fun and enjoyable song, and Country & Western storytelling at its finest.

Sound-wise, the album is recorded well with a fairly wide soundstage and good depth. All instruments are clearly heard and complement each other very well. TJ’s vocals are clear and rendered with a lifelike palpability that makes it feel as if he is in the room.

I couldn't help but have flashbacks to the old HEE HAW as I listened to this album. For those who don’t know what that show was or are only vaguely familiar with it, it was a weekly County & Western variety show hosted by the late Buck Owens and Roy Clark that ran for decades. And while it will probably be remembered mostly for its country bumpkin humor, those of us who watched it regularly know that they always had a who’s who of Country & Western stars performing on it; stars with names like George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette, and Charlie Pride (to name but a few) and I could see this music easily sliding right in there, especially the title song “Who I Am.”

I heartily recommend this album for anyone that longs for the good old days, but doesn’t want to listen to new renditions of cover songs. You might say these songs are fresh and new in their old school-ness, and will have you listening to them over and over. Start to finish, it is a success.