As he tells it, Hezekiah Goode got his start as a singer ankle-deep in cow manure, serenading a barnful of cows out behind his granddaddy’s place. While this Ozarks songwriter has traveled a long way from that auspicious barn in 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 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.” In his sophomore album, Two Billion Acres of Salt, Hezekiah’s brand of American roots music combines vintage country soundscapes with a keen-eyed survey of everyday tragedies, romances, and miracles.

If Two Billion Acres of Salt draws heavily from the folk music traditions of the upland south, it also clearly reflects Hezekiah’s wide-ranging love of the far-flung corners of the United States. Hidden within the lilt and whimsy of “A Fence of Colorado Stone” is a saunter around the heartland, as the singer builds fences of Colorado stone, Pennsylvania steel, Virginia oak, and Ohio corn. The title track lights up the dusk hour across the country, when “stories fill the air like Oklahoma dust”, weaving images from the Nantucket shipyards to the swamps of Louisiana to the back porches of New Orleans into “a song of everything/a beautiful mess”. Hez tips his hat to the heartbreak ballads of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell with the poignant waltz “I Need You To Walk Away”, and throws in some infectiously toe-tapping ragtime blues with his cover of the Jimmie Rodgers tune “Nobody Knows But Me”.

Recorded by Morgan Harris (of Moja Magic Studio) and showcasing a crack team of collaborators, Two Billion Acres of Salt features Glenn Taylor’s melancholy pedal steel lines, Matt Combs’ fiery fiddle licks, and Eric Thorin anchoring the groove on bass. It’s a hard-twanging album that sounds just as at home on a lone road trip out west as it does in a honky-tonk Friday night, blending classic tone and contemporary sensibility like a fine Kentucky bourbon. It’s the travels and trails of Hezekiah’s life translated into song that lend it a deep authenticity, hearkening right back to a starlit night in the Missouri hills, a herd of contented cattle, and a singer with a guitar and a story to tell.

-Ary K. Smith