Simon Flory’s music is suffused with the elements of his childhood – days spent in the fields, church songs, gravel roads. His new album, Haul These Blues Away, out today, features compositions that are as much short-story sketches as they are songs, each populated – like the locales that inspire them – with those among us who have few choices.
On Haul These Blues Away, Flory’s sound evokes voices not much heard on radio airwaves, a stew of early country, gospel, and the best of classic Nashville. Even his guitar playing captures the rhythmic tumble of clawhammer banjo and Appalachian fiddle, and his vocal phrasing carries inflections from the Carter Family to Eddie Cochran to Hank Williams.
The album kicks off with "Peter Mack Built a Semi Truck," which Wide Open Country notes, finds Flory ruminating on the weight of the world while coping with struggles and the power of the human spirit.
“Learning How To Talk” considers the sometimes-awkward feeling of swimming in a sea of extroverts, while “Big Bad Lover” is, simply put, about gaslighting. “If My Mule Had Wings” was literally written while riding a mule, inspired by a fantasy of a beast of burden sprouting wings and singing while toiling away in the furrows of life. It’s a song of defiance and inclusivity, inviting the listener to be themselves and be free.
“Atoka,” the home of both Reba McEntire and legendary bull rider Lane Frost, is the setting for the song of the same name, a place featuring a prison, coal mine, civil war museum and one dinosaur bone, on the edge of the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. It’s reminiscent of many of the places Flory’s seen while traveling around playing music.
“Have Your Adventure,” which premiered with The Bluegrass Situation this week, is Flory’s favorite saying of his Granny’s: an uplifting tale of defiance against those who give you debt, lies, heartache and pain.
The album closer is Flory’s version of “Spanish Fandango,” a traditional song he learned while living in Chicago. It’s played in the “pre-Scruggs” three-finger banjo style, the dreamy sounds of dissonant chords and slower-than-loping pace illustrating the album’s themes: overcoming hardship and heartbreak-to a place of contentment and love.
After earning a degree in creative writing and theatre from DePauw University, Flory moved to Chicago and founded the country band Merle The Mule while working as a multi-instrumentalist in an old-time duo with teacher Ed Tverdek, and as an employee at the Old Town School of Folk Music.
Flory’s first solo record, self-released Unholy Town, led him to Austin, TX, where he continued to work as a solo performer. He eventually found success as one-half of the Kindie group, The Que Pastas, and as a multi-instrumentalist for-hire, before co-founding the Austin-based country-bluegrass group High Plains Jamboree with Beth Chrisman, Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay. They were official showcase artists at Folk Alliance International, IBMA, and Americanafest where Rolling Stone Country featured them as one of the best things they saw in 2016.
His most recent releases, 2019’s Radioville and 2020’s Songs From Paper Thin Lines garnered local acclaim, as did his poetry film, Paper Thin Lines, which was officially selected in the Thinline Music and Film Festival and the PressPlay Film Festival.