Good news and bad news.

Bad news: I’ve been at a record low of my usual listening activity (yes, I’m obsessive and keep track on Spotistats). My usual favorites haven’t been hitting, the new stuff seems like it’s been done before, and a general malaise has been hanging heavy like a cloud above my Spotify. 

And the good? Well, I’ve finally hit gold: first, the band Rightfield, and in particular one half of its duo, Jack Blocker.

While Rightfield has been compared to the 1975 (its indie pop songs certainly are, but when they decide to go punk, I feel like I’m back at Warped Tour watching 3OH!3), Blocker’s debut solo act is just as genre-bending and fresh, reviving my speaker back to life. Taking up the helm of modern grassroots, outlaw country, and even a hint of jazz, Blocker’s strong vocals attack the lead single, “Big Jefe,” with pipes that can, depending on your preference, either tear down or raise the roof:

Friday night somewhere in Arizona
that tequila dadgum put me in a coma
It was one, two, three—I don’t remember four,
but I done lost my keys and I gotta make it home

I flagged a bus down and I only paid a quarter
Told ’em drop my ass anywhere up on the corner,
but I woke up 80 miles by the border
in a blazing dust storm haze

A light, plodding strum intros Blocker’s unique, illustrative lyrics, playing with rhythm. There are easy first comparisons to make, his voice with a similar twang and tone of a Tyler Childers, and the storytelling bend classic to so much of country, whether it be Johnny Cash, Billy Strings, or even the not-so-country but narrative-centered classics of the Beatles’ Paul McCartney, like Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Rocky Raccoon

Saw and old abuelo walking to my right
He took a seat by me, I asked him all politely
where a guy like me could stay a couple nights
and make a dime or two to hitch another ride

He said, “In this town, you’re pushing or you’re buying,
and a boy like you might quickly get to dying,
but I need this kilo gone before tonight;
If you can sell it, I’ll get you paid

Blocker plays with the rapscallion persona of a drunken man losing his way, ultimately being forced to sell a brick of cocaine to get by, entering a long, marble white hallway of country classics dedicated to cocaine (it’s true!), but plays into the humorous, playful side of his bluegrass sound with a narrative about embracing this new life of crime as “Big Jefe,” or Big Boss in Spanish.

I knew, “Hola, señorita,”
and I guess I knew my name,
but I never knew I was a dead eye shooter
born to push cocaine

Don’t call me ol’ Johnny round these parts, honey
‘Cause everything has changed
I’m the blood-spitting, bull-riding, boot-shining, one-eyed pirate
Big Jefe

In the coming verses, Blocker regales the audience of his newest ventures pushing cocaine (with a lovely harmonizing pause on “I can get you high, high, high!“), where a stellar piano solo preludes us into the happy conclusion: he eventually comes to great success, settling south of Tijuana with a beautiful señorita. The piano that borders the song takes us from the southern edges of Texas to New Orleans for a moment, jazzy and bright.

As Blocker takes his last chorus on “Big Jefe,” it’s loud with a golden triumph and a sense of excitement, beaming:

Don’t call me ol’ Johnny round these parts, honey
‘Cause everything has changed
I’m the blood-spitting, bull-riding,
Boot-shining, hog-tying,
White-lining, bar-fighting,
Two-timing, high-flying,
Truck driving all night,
Running from the bright light,
One-eyed pirate
Big Jefe

From the soaring end of “Big Jefe” is a more classic, slow acoustic B Side, “Ol’ Bobby.” Still showing off impressive songwriting chops—this time more of a character profile than a story—Blocker shares the values and idiosyncrasies of a gentle giant, Bobby.

Ol’ Bobby never liked to lay a hand on nobody
but he’d sure end a fight in one swing
With an arm like an ox and a smile like an old friend
who knows good and well what you drink
He lends a cool hand to the fool who can’t
seem to walk a straight line or find peace

Harmonies rise with Blocker in the chorus, the sparse piano additions bluesy in a way that makes it the perfect sing-along bar song. A flickering of steel guitar adds likewise to the feeling of a ballad as Blocker flings the melody up and down with passionate ease and emotion:

Gives a heavy Budweiser to wine-drinking folk
when work drags ’em down to his street
and then a glass of tap water to soften the blow
when their drunken complexion turns green

Blocker’s general philosophy of life comes through clearly across the two songs, a moral philosophy more focused on how a person treats the people around them than being the kind to proselytize. Big Johnny Jefe doesn’t mind being a coke dealer, but he sure is thankful for his new girl; Ol’ Bobby will get in a fight, but only when it matters. The songs have a refreshing humility and down to earth realism that feel more focused on the way we respond to life, rather than judging people immediately on circumstance. What resonates is a lust for life, a kindness toward strangers, and a go-getter attitude that takes advantage of all they can:

Ya he’s wise and he’s tough,
and he rides with his pup,
and he earns every dime in his jeans

So if you’re the cowboy type, and like to live life on the edge—but never without a little humility—Blocker’s new single’s for you. The lyrics are testimony enough, but it shows through down to the trills of his tone: Blocker works for this music, earning every dime at breakneck speed, and he sounds like he’s having a doggone lot of fun doing it, too. Making it in the music scene is always a bit of a hustle, but I can tell Blocker’s got the drive.

Like Big Jefe, ¡sígue así!