Luke McGlathery has been a musical pillar around Fort Worth for the past few years. Whether it’s with his former bluegrass outfit Big City Folk, hosting weekly open-mic nights at Lola’s Saloon, or grabbing his violin and hopping onstage to accompany other artists, it is inconceivable that any local music fan has been able to avoid coming across the 25-year-old musician plying his craft.
McGlathery’s debut solo album, Life Ain’t Hard, is soaked in the classic sounds of the South. A brew of bluegrass, classic country, and zydeco sets the stage for the doe-eyed troubadour’s tales of loneliness and drinking his troubles away.
“I’m going to the mountain / I’m going all alone,” he sings on “When I’m Gone,” shooting from the hip like legendary Fort Worth songwriter Townes Van Zandt. This type of unwillingness to sugarcoat the ugly side of life runs rampant across the album.
Throughout Life Aint Hard, McGlathery makes it clear that while life might not be all that hard, there are still obstacles we all deal with on a daily basis.
“You’re probably unaware of my feelings for you,” he croons, channeling his inner Willie Nelson, on the somber ballad “I Don’t Know.” Accompanied by only guitar and violin, and sounding as if he couldn’t be bothered to actually find out if his muse reciprocates his love, McGlatherly closes out the song with a gently delivered, gut-wrenching refrain: “I know /  Baby, I know / But you don’t care.”
“Rise” continues the theme of shrugging off troubling times. “Darling, you got a rise out of me,” he begins before audibly letting go of what can’t be controlled with “this game makes me loopy / I can never win.”
In its most lighthearted moments, the nine-song album, recorded at Fort Worth’s Cloudland Recording Studio and produced by Britt Robisheaux (War Party, The Longshots, Bludded Head), pokes fun at the idea that anyone actually has it all figured out. The sparse instrumentation of McGlathery on guitar and violin and Abel Casillas’ accordion allows the songwriting skill of McGlathery to shine, adding a warm-toned backdrop to the lyrics without being busy or overbearing. –– Jasun Lee