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Cory Cross used to party, and now he doesn’t, but moving on from whiskey and whatever else hasn’t always been easy. Courtesy Facebook

After more than a decade of playing dives and honkytonks across the United States, country troubadour Cory Cross has learned a few lessons, and now he’s unpacking them on There’s More, his new 14-track LP.

Along with his band, the Burden, Cross reflects on a past colored by hard living and heartbreak, delivering his musings in a laconic drawl that lopes along with the Burden’s effortless brand of classic country and Western swing.

Recorded in October 2023 at Weatherford Junior College by Burden drummer Austin Choate — with executive production from legendary engineer Tim Kimsey (Steve Perry, Pantera, The Polyphonic Spree) — There’s More aims for the cozy studio vibes of the late ’70s, which gives Cross’ baritone a world-weary edge that complements his band’s laid-back, in-the-pocket performances. Other than the judicious application of some reverb and phaser effects here and there, the album’s clear, unfussy mix showcases a road band that doesn’t need a ton of takes to nail a track, nor months of gimmicky knob fiddling to make each note sound great.

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The Burden, composed of Cross and Choate plus Kyle Farley on bass, Matthew Walton on slide guitar, and David Forsythe and William Wright on electric guitars, offers tasty licks and fills but ones that are always in the service of the song, never stepping on a hook or getting in the way of Cross’ lyrics.

As a songwriter, Cross tells his stories with a wry sense of humor and the kinds of mundane, situational details that make a good tune turn into a movie in your brain. In the lead-off track (and first single) “100 Miles,” Cross muses about what he’s gotten himself into as a musician near the end of a tour, itching to get back to his sweetie.

“Set my cruise to 95 / $500 bucks split every night / We’ll make Dallas by 2 or 3 / I ain’t wearin’ boots for at least two weeks / I’ve got one more show, then I’m through / I got 100 miles to you.”

That song, along with “The Highway,” nestles in that well-worn pop music trope of The Road, where the loneliness, hassles, and dark nights of the soul that come with a rough-and-tumble, ramblin’ life are part of what make the rough-and-tumble, ramblin’ life hard to put to rest.

Yet shelving some parts of that way of living is an undercurrent to these songs, which really makes them resonate. Cross used to party, and now he doesn’t, but moving on from whiskey and whatever else hasn’t always been easy — “Done Bein’ Good (For Good)” couches that struggle in a bouncy two-stepper. “Cryin’ in the Honky Tonk” is an ambling, tear-in-my-beer ballad reminiscent of Gary Stewart and King George. “Too Drunk to Swim” carries a funny story home in a wagon made of uptempo Texas swing. Those songs levy a lot of reminiscing about the bad parts of the good times and vice-versa, but it’s the hope and love and sense of trying to be good in tunes like “Make Malibu” and “Just Tonight” that herald the next phase of Cross’ life and career. The former imagines a romantic California vacation with his love that’s positively earnest in its desire to experience the moment with someone you’re crazy about, while in the latter, a duet with Cross’ fiancée Abby, he contemplates what the ring on a person’s finger really means when they’re at the bar. It’s a very real sentiment, and that’s what makes Cross’ tales hit the heart.

Where Cross is headed with his life and career sounds great, but There’s More is a soulful, funny account of where he’s been, told with gorgeous, classic country framing and tight, two-stepping grooves.

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