At some point in the near future I’ll stop posting stuff about Ryan Culwell’s album “Flatlands”. But in the mean time, you should listen to it here. Listen like a 1000 times, so he’ll draw a royalty check.

Or buy it here:

Rolling Stone says: …startling moments — the places where the bare-boned gives way to the bombastic — that makes Flatlands sound like the Bible Belt cousin to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.

Pop Matters says: Indeed, if Flatlands was a movie, it would have better been entitled Badlands given its barren settings and austere atmosphere. And if it was a slice of cinema, it would likely end in triumph; however tortured the tale, its ultimate purpose would be to salute Culwell’s acumen and resolve. 

New Slang, a local rag says: There’s undoubtedly a vein of honesty that careens back and forth throughout the 12-track masterpiece that paints the Flatlands exactly what they are to most. He captures the highs, lows, and the in-betweens without harping or celebrating either too much. 

Ryan Culwell’s Flatlands

Ryan Culwell’s album Flatlands comes out March 3, on Lightning Rod Records (Joe Pug, Billy Joe Shaver, Amanda Shires). I’m grateful to have etched the album’s cover art, a linoleum cut print. Also, if you get the physical album, I have a poem in the liner notes. Brian Boebel at Dual Identity Design did the package design.

I include here Gustav Dore’s “The Destruction of Leviathan,” which is an illustration of Isaiah 27. Not only was Dore’s leviathan a touchstone for my rattlesnake, but Isaiah may be a hermeneutic while listening to Flatlands

Not that this is any sort of creditable review, but I keep crying while I listen to it. But then I stop cuz aint no one saying I aint tough (tough just aint enough).

P.S. Rolling Stone premiered the album. For a little while, you can listen to it here:

“There is a highway shot of those awful wind turbines in the beginning of the video,” he says. “If you follow that road another 40 miles, you’ll end up at the Adobe Walls, where 28 hunters defeated 700 Indians in 1874. Billy Dixon shot a warrior off his horse from a mile away to end that battle. That shot brought on the Red River War and led to the Plainsmen Indians being relocated to reservations in Oklahoma.

“Go nine miles past Adobe Walls, and you’ll end up at (billionaire entrepreneur) T. Boone Pickens‘ house on a 68,000-acre ranch. Thirty more miles and you’ll be in Pampa, Texas, where Woody Guthrie experienced the Dust Bowl, and my grandpa taught math.

Winter Wheat (EP Review)

Arbor Christian Academy


18 pt
18 pt


Ryan Culwell’s last studio album, Heroes on the Radiowas released in 2006. Since then he led the rock band The Young Senators through a storm of shows in oil-field bars across West Texas before walking away from the lifestyle to plant his young family in Nashville. Upon arrival in Music City, he could only make sense of the new world in the laconic language of his barren Flatland upbringing, and his first EP in 6 years – Winter Wheat – was born.

While it may be fine to talk about these songs in terms of a career, it falls short of the ambition in the opening lines of “Walking Away” – The wheat field is all but dead // There’s a pure white snow under my heel // But the old timers say it’ll be a crop someday. 

For all the paradox this seems, these songs tell what it is for a man to hate his life – lay down his vain ambitions in the dirt, hoping they bear a better fruit than the meager scraps he’d known. In the world decaying-to-dust that Ryan narrates, hope is the crop germinating in Winter Wheat

I’ve said a few things about Ryan (here and here) in the past, and I do so again now proudly and without regard to any sort of Internet personality I may have cultivated. I think these four songs are great. They have been my accompaniment as I drive the 40 uninhabited miles home from work every day and can literally say that the songs have kept me alive (or at least awake, which at 70 mph is the same thing). 

If my recommendation holds any weight for you, then click through and download Ryan Culwell’s Winter Wheat. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it whets your appetite for the full-length album that he’ll release in 2013.

* If you don’t know anything about NoiseTrade, here’s the basics: you enter your email and zip code so the artist has the information in case they are ever in your area. You don’t have to pay anything to download the music; although tips are nice. Pretty simple.