Brent Cobb didn't set out to write an album that feels and sounds like the place he grew up. But now that the grooves have been cut in his debut LP, Shine on Rainy Day, there's no denying the people, the places and the vibe of his southcentral Georgia home infuse almost every song.
"It just is Georgia," Brent says in his musical drawl. "It's just that rural, easy-going way it feels down there on a nice spring evening when the wind's blowing warm and you smell wisteria, you know?"
It's quiet down there where he's from in Ellaville -- "population 1,609" -- laid back and forgotten in the shadow of Atlanta and Savannah. The people have blue-collar values and believe in treating your neighbor like you want to be treated. They believe in curses and the dark finger of Fate and wield a sharp, dark sense of humor that sustains them through the hardest of times. Distant radio stations, roadside honkytonks made of cinderblock and back-porch picking sessions heavy on the backbeat predominate under Spanish moss-strewn live oaks and loblolly pines.
It was the perfect place to grow up.
"Lord, when I die, let's make a deal," Brent sings on the album's swirling thesis statement, "South of Atlanta," "lay me down in that town where time stands still."
Shine on Rainy Day is an album Brent's been trying to make for a decade, enlisting his cousin and fellow Georgian, Dave Cobb, the Grammy Award-winning producer whose Elektra Records imprint Low Country Sound is home to the album.
Brent wanted to record an album that felt Southern, though not the kind of Southern you might expect. Neither Southern rock nor mainstream country, the sound sits somewhere on the wide bandwidth that exists between the two. Cousin Dave helped him find the right vibe, full of blue-eyed soul, country funk and the kind of swamp boogie sounds that predominated pop in the 1960s and early 1970s. There's a reason Georgia was always on Ray Charles' mind, after all.
"I don't mean to get weird and be into, like, deep shit, but it really has got to be blood," Brent said. "When I write songs, it's almost like I didn't write them. You know it's just like this is happening right now and it just comes out. He's the same way in the studio. He's like, 'Put this right here and play it like this,' and you're like why? And he's like, 'I don't know, it's just the way it's supposed to go.' That's exactly how I write songs."
Brent finds it a strange sensation to be so closely linked to someone. Though cousins, the Cobbs didn't know each other growing up. Dave's a little bit older than 29-year-old Brent and his father was the one brother who left the area and moved away -- to an island off the coast from Savannah. So when they first met -- as adults at an aunt's funeral -- Brent was wary. And a little bit of an ass.