AJ Downing Album Review: Good Day

I’ll tell you what, it is a Good Day when AJ Downing puts out a record. This man has a way with writing insightful and intelligent lyrics cradled in grooves and melody sways that make for an album that the Rolling Stones and Neil Young would love. And you as well, I suspect. Mixing funky riffs, rock grooves, two steps and swampy bluegrass, Good Day  shows the best of what is great Americana Rock and Roll. He doesn’t sing like anyone else. He’s got a captivating swerve is his voice that is a bit on the cynical side and yet it is somehow comforting. He’s questioning life, love and the state of our affairs, all the while rockin’ it as he’s figuring it out.

Downing has lived his music all of his life and it has revealed itself in various forms. He started off in a Hillbilly Band in High School, spent some time at Berkeley College of Music in Boston, traveled from California and Nashville playing the scenes and then went up again to Michigan where he beat a meth addiction and worked with other musicians on their various projects.

Now,  here is the third album (after River of Life and Way Back Home) that he’s released since relocating to the Texas Hill Country with his wife Carrie a few years ago. Downing steeped himself in the energy flow of Cheatham Street Warehouse and Kent Finlay in San Marcos and brought out his singer/songwriter side but kept a strong band sound.  He’s got a stellar group of musicians accompanying him on Good Day, including his wife Carrie on background vocals. He’s even got the legendary Ian McLagan on a piano track. Downing himself plays acoustic and electric guitars, banjo and harmonica, all splendidly.  From the first track, “My Wagon Just Won’t Roll,” Downing’s unique and soulfully engaging vocals are mesmerizing. The lyrics are sharp.  The whole package, well, think the Stones, but wiser.  The entire record is solid. The title track to Good Day is a slow groovin’ song about getting out of your own way…

Hey Mr. Brick Wall that once stood in my way

I no longer see you or the games you play

I no longer hear you and your words of despair

I’m taking this hammer and going over there

It’s a brand new sunrise, time to settle the score

all those hard times I chose to endure…

American Junkie” is a tale about the self-serving greed mentality that’s revealed in the rat race and political game.

I’m an American Junkie but I ain’t hooked on drugs

I’m hooked on dreams and schemes and never having enough

There ain’t no need to worry ‘cuz I got God on my side

Got no time for mercy, baby, only the strong survive…

The Other CHeek” brings in a slide and swampy guitar in a song of revenge on an unfaithful woman and her lover. “Valentine” shows Downing’s banjo skills with a haunting mix of bluegrass, country and rock.  And to show more versatility, “Wille (Had We Never Been High)” is a great Texas two-step in an homage to Austin’s King of Country.

Downing depicts the sometimes futile, sometimes hopeful feeling most of us are feeling in today’s world.  We’re all just mulling our way through life as best as we can, but we can enjoy a great soundtrack like Good Day to help us through the process.



1. My Wagon Just Won’t Roll

2. Good Day

3. Lonesome Town

4. What You Lookin For

5. American Junkie

6. The Other Cheek

7. Valentine

8. Willie (Had We Never Been High)

9. Forty Below

10. Aimless Sea

~ Wade Phillips

Outlaw Magazine. Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk.  As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.