Boone County West Virginia is famously known as the home of psychobilly legend Hasil Adkins and the infamous White family. Boone County’s latest export is Justin Payne who has produced his debut full length album titled No Place Lower Than High. This record is pure country. It’s an album that would fit alongside contemporary outlaw singers like Whitey Morgan, Dallas Moore or Eric Strickland and The B-Sides. No Place Lower Than High shows that Justin Payne has all the trademarks of a great modern outlaw country singer and the album feels effortlessly badass.
The set is bookended by an introduction and a closing statement from W.B. Walker of W.B. Walker’s Old Soul Radio Show. These pieces are formatted to fit the style of the podcast and while some might love the set-up, it might also come off as cheesy to others. It’s good to know that these interludes are only at the opening and closing of the album. The music itself is the focus of the record with an emphasis on great songwriting and a flare for outlaw country. “She Never Will” kicks the album off right with a song about how Jesus may forgive you for cheating, but the one you cheated never will. This song features some great guitar work on the telecaster culminating in a killer solo.
Another highlight of the album is “Your Kind”. It’s like a modern version of “Country Boys Can Survive” but with a more menacing tone warning outsiders against coming around “cause you ain’t gonna like how we deal with the likes of your kind”. Then there is “The Man I Should Be” which changes it up lyrically and is a song that any father or son who have love for each other can relate to. “Papers” is my favorite track on the album and it is a song about a couple getting ready to sign divorce papers. This song has been written a million times in country music, however the lyrics on this track paint the image perfectly with lines like “I’ll take back the Dodge out in the garage and you can take back your daddy’s last name” in the same song as “Maybe it’s the truth that I still love you, but just maybe I’m through being used”. It goes through a range of emotions from being upset to full of regret.
This whole album has a darker feel to it. There are songs about lost love, drinking to get through the day and even loosing the spirit of a slow Sunday morning. Justin Payne brings a mix of his outlaw influences and the West Virginia Appalachian style to this record, and it shows. I look forward to hearing future releases from this great songwriter who obviously has some strong outlaw country influences. No Place Lower Than High is available on CD and digital through Bandcamp.
Justin Payne – No Place Lower Than High – Track Listing
1. Boone County Line (W.B. Walker Intro)
2. She Never Will
3. Gettin By
4. The Man I Should Be
5. Your Kind
6. I Can’t Wait
7. Lil’ Jenna (Intermission)
8. The Fall
9. Life Is A Country Song
11. Trip Me Up
12. Sunday Song
13. My Emmons Home (Outro)