Gary Brewer and the Kentucky Ramblers Release “Pass Along the Good”

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a single like this. I confess knowing zero about Gary Brewer and the Kentucky Ramblers before hearing their new release “Pass Along the Good”, but I’m well aware of Jim Lauderdale’s talents and lengthy history. The iconic Americana artist and Brewer first struck up their creative collaboration at a show they were both appearing. The bolt of inspiration came during a conversation in the form of the song’s title and the pair joined forces the next day to write and record.

I thought about Merle Haggard when I first heard the song.  It does not have that classic Bakersfield sound, far from it, but Brewer’s voice reminded me of the same authentic soul I heard in that country music great. It is not to say that he’s an imitation. Far from it. There’s no doubt that both he and Lauderdale are exploring familiar territory, but they are traversing it in their own manner – the accents, the phrasing, the choice for emphasis, these factors shift and transform during the course of “Pass Along the Good”. It takes what would be an otherwise fine example of Americana and gives it across the board power.

There’s more. The classic country instrumentation present in the song conjures further ghosts. Touching base with a tradition’s past is always advisable. Brewer and Lauderdale never treat this style as if it’s a butterfly pinned under glass, however. Country music, and Americana overall, isn’t an unchanging academic affair for them. Instead, the form is elastic, forever malleable for those who search it out as a vehicle for their experiences.

The experiences they convey are direct, unmistakable. Hard-won wisdom lives in the idea that it’s better to spend one’s days trying to push the good in life rather than wallowing in negativity. I’m a great admirer of the calm efficiency in how they give us that message and their trading off vocal lines throughout the song has the effect of producing alternate points of view for listeners. 

The vocal melody is one of my favorite parts. It carries you along effortlessly, never making any demands, and holds your attention through the end. There are not a bevy of changes sure to dazzle lines; both artists bring fidelity to the fundamentals and resist glossing over their work with needless fluff. The production keeps the focus on the song. Nothing else matters. This is a song zeroing in on life’s home truths and sideshows need not apply.

It’s an almost radical message to hear on Planet Earth, circa 2022. The idea of simply passing on some good in this life to others around us sounds almost quaint in the world of social media feuds, global power struggles, and countless examples of bad behavior memorialized in every form of popular art. We need more songs like this to turn the tide. Let us be thankful that voices such as Lauderdale and Brewer’s can still be heard over the near-deafening roar we hear throughout our lives.

Gwen Waggoner