TJ Hernandez released his Extended Play (EP) album, Who I am, on October 8th, 2018. The album is produced by Jonathan Parker and Clyde Mattocks and features seven original, traditional country tracks. Listen up folks. Have you ever been to a live concert and you never heard of the opener, and that opener completely blew your mind? Or, have you ever heard a song on the radio for the first time that hooked you on an artist? This album is that. A review of this album isn’t even really necessary. You should just go ahead and find this album on your favorite platform and get to being blown away. But, for the sake of the article, contribution security to The Armadillo and because this album deserves to be on everybody’s radar, I’ll go ahead and break down a couple (all) of the tunes from one of the best debut EP’s that I’ve ever heard.
The album opens with a song titled Corporate Man. The musical intro to this track automatically acclimates the listeners ears to that outlaw country sound. Heavy on the electric (Phil Wise) and steel guitar (Clyde Mattocks), this tune immediately grabbed my attention right out of the gate. The song is about the corporate elite in this world thinking that they are above all other forms of man and woman. “Hey there Mr. Corporate man sittin’ high on your throne / I know you think you’re better than me, livin in that fancy home / You put us down take all you can from us folks just getting’ by / But there’s somethin’ you’re forgettin’ / One day were all gonna die.” Hernandez brings to life real issues that the privileged corporations bring about for the smaller local businesses to deal with. “You’re shuttin’ down the mom and pops with your big box companies / takin’ food off the table of blue-collar families.” Hernandez provides the listener with a real, honest perspective from a working man looking eye to eye with the greedy corporate elite. “In the end, we all have the same fate. No matter what “class” you fall into or how many material things”-Hernandez.
Two songs on the album, 100 Years Too Late and One More, were co-written by the very talented singer and songwriter Bryan James. 100 Years Too Late brings with it that classic, traditional country vibe along with an old-fashioned way of living. It is a reminisce of the good ol’ days when one man could look another man in the eye and make a deal with nothing but his word and a handshake. “A firm handshake was all you’d need to count on someone to do the things / They looked you in the eye and said they do.” The final track on the album, One More, is a traditional country rendition about a fella who may be in trouble with his significant other. “She’s probably waitin’ by the phone / Little angry she’s alone / It’s way past the time I’m usually home / It’s the middle of the night” This song, “…One More is what I consider to be the first real song I ever wrote. I had a pretty good part of it done, but asked Bryan if he’d give it a listen and some feedback” said Hernandez. The collaboration of James and Hernandez will provide the listener with an extra special sense of the distinctive chemistry that the two have together.
The title track on the album, Who I Am, is an instant classic. This song will take the listener back to the days of the late 80s or early 90s traditional country music scene. “Who I Am is the most personal song to me on the album. It is my honesty of failure, mistakes, lessons learned and where all of it has taken me to…”-Hernandez. The tune is masterfully slowed to just the right beat to tune the listeners ears to the message that life experiences, both good and bad, are what molds a person into who they are. “And I know I would / It made me who I am /All those trials and tribulations / Taught me how to sink or swim / Life flies by in a blink of an eye / So live it while you can.”
Tumbleweed is a song that is based on a musical theory that two prominent musicians, one past and one present have parallel, but yet different, distinct guitar sounds embedded into their music. “I just had an idea one night about how similar yet completely different Johnny Cash and Sturgill Simpson play guitar. Thinking about how to bring those two great sounds together, I grabbed my guitar and started playing”-Hernandez. Musically, the listener is in for a real treat with this tune. It is a mashup that provides the throwback feel of the guitar in Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and Sturgill’s Long White Line. “Tumbleweed wasn’t originally supposed to be on the album. Actually, I wrote it about a week before I went to the studio”-Hernandez. This song compliments this EP and I sure am glad that it was written in time to be included. Hell of a tune.
Ain’t Gonna Change and The Reflection are two of my favorite tunes on this EP. The first of the two, Ain’t Gonna Change is a tune pinned by Hernandez about his father’s “My way or no way approach” to life. This song is another brilliant tune that screams classic country music at the core of the listeners heart and soul. “There’s a lot of darkness and truth in that song. It was also the hardest one to write because it digs up ghosts and it was difficult to be that truthful without having a fear of crossing a line. Luckily, he loves the song and smiles when he tells people I wrote it about him”-Hernandez.
The Reflection “…is a fictional song inspired by a really drunk guy I saw in a bar one night. He was really drunk, and the bartender refused to serve him anymore. He held onto his empty whiskey glass the whole time and between asking for another drink, he just kept staring into the bottom of it”-Hernandez. This song is deep, well written, and is very relatable to anyone that has ever used the bottle to drown out the unwanted sorrow and pain in life. Again, another awe-inspiring song on what is considered by me to be one of the grandest debut EP’s available in the genre of traditional country music.
TJ Hernandez has hit a home run with this debut production. It would be a crime for any fan of traditional country music to miss out on the sounds and lyrics that have been professionally mastered and laid down on this album. This EP is for fans of traditional country music and artists such as Cody Jinks, Jamey Johnson, and the man himself, Waylon Jennings. Get it. You are gonna want to put this album on your current playlist. Hell, you will want to put this on repeat, as it is a stand-alone EP that matches or outdoes anything currently released in the genre.
You can order the digital copy of Who I Am via CD Baby( https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/tjhernandez ) or purchase the physically copy directly from TJ Hernandez himself on Facebook @ TJ Hernandez Music.
TJ Hernandez: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Clyde Mattocks: Producer, Pedal Steel Guitar, Dobro
Carroll Wade: Bass
Dexter Horton: Drums
Phil Wise: Electric Guitar
Jonathan Parker: Producer, Acoustic Guitar
Gary Braddy: Background Vocals
Engineered by Mike Rose and recorded at AudioFarm in Goldsboro, NC