As he tells it, Hezekiah Goode got his start in country music “ankle-deep in manure, yodeling to a barnful of Hereford cattle out behind my granddad’s place”. At 13 or 14 he moved on to playing guitar renditions of gospel standards like “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Amazing Grace” at the Southern Baptist church his family attended.

He spent the decade from 1995-2005 “writing a bunch of tunes, playing a bunch of shows, and losing a bunch of money” in various Midwestern rock bands, before returning with a renewed focus to the country and folk music he’d grown up with in the Ozarks. “My great grandad was a contest fiddler in West Texas and then in South Missouri. My great uncle Ruby was a serious pedal steel player who moved out west and got involved with that Bakersfield scene – Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and that bunch. He taught me some of my first country guitar licks at a family reunion one year. My mama played piano and was gone-around-the-bend crazy about the blues. When I was a kid, she would always be playing me a Charlie Patton record or hauling me off somewhere to see Albert King or somebody like that. Grandma and Grandpa would stop a good card game to go sing songs from the Baptist hymnal. So I came up in a family of real, down-home American music lovers. I’m as grateful as can be for that. I feel like it’s kept me rooted in this music in a way that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have been.”

While this Ozarks songwriter has traveled a long way from the south Missouri hills, playing everywhere from the honky-tonks of Colorado to the street corners of Dublin, he’s kept a close connection to his rural working class roots. It shows in his melody-driven guitar licks, in the country-jukebox twang of his smooth baritone, and in the detail and humanity of his songs, which he’s proud to say celebrate “everyday folks, folks with dented cars and crummy nine-to-fives – both of which I’ve experienced in spades, for what it’s worth.” (Hez has worked as a construction grunt in the Ozarks, a maintenance man in the Bay Area, a dishwasher in Kansas, an electrician in Colorado, a cubicle jockey in New York, and has had 2 cars burst into flames).

On his 3rd album, Humansville, Goode’s brand of American roots music combines vintage country soundscapes with a keen-eyed survey of everyday tragedies, romances, and miracles. The opening track, a brisk bluegrass entitled “Rocky Mountain Line”, tells of a family-oriented mountain man whose decidedly undomestic sweetheart would “cross the road to dodge a diaper pin”. The song follows her freightcar ramblings all around the country and ultimately to “a roadhouse full of cowboys in Cheyenne” where she “leaves the fiddle squealing and a barroom full of busted hearts” but doesn’t seem to be headed home anytime soon.

The haunting yet strangely matter-of-fact “Tintype” paints a portrait of an Ozarks family in hard circumstances. The opening line, “right before he left to go and drink himself to death, daddy beat the hell out of us kids and my poor mama”, pulls us forcibly and immediately into the dark tale to follow. The story builds gradually to a violent encounter with the sister’s controlling partner, who is pictured “pickin at his teeth with his pocket knife and grinning”. There is a weariness in the quietly fingerpicked guitar and the singer’s distant baritone that suits the story well. Even the unusually long melodic figure and fluid meter help reinforce the feeling of a long slog down a rough and rocky road.

The mood is considerably lighter on the foot-stomping fiddle tune “Big Taters”, which takes an almost comical look at farm life from the viewpoint of a down and out farmer whose constant refrain “how i love my pretty farm!” certainly conflicts with his declaration that “you’ll find no better spread out west to lose your a** and starve to death”.

Hez tips his hat to the country blues of Jimmie Rodgers with the languid “Laramie County Jail” and throws in some lively fingerpicking ala Mississippi John Hurt on “Son In Law Yodel”. The rocking “Pretty Little Bernardine” conjures up Chuck Berry more than Lefty Frizzell.

Humansville was mixed by Chris Andrews of Monument Recording Studio and features Matt Combs on fiddle, Bob Tuttle on pedal steel, Rusty Danmyer on dobro, Dave Roe on bass, and Lynn Williams on drums. The album was mastered by Chris Keffer at Magnetic North Studio.