James Hyland got his start in music as a member of cult favorites the South Austin Jug Band, who made a name for themselves in the Texas music scene in the early 2000s with their good-hearted bluegrass-inspired Americana. Eventually the band members went separate ways, embarking on other musical endeavors. Hyland decided to pursue his own path and has been playing and recording solo for a handful of years.
This May, he will release his new album Western, a sprawling 20-song collection about the impact the building of the transcontinental railroad had on the American West. The album touches upon the Comanche, the Texas Rangers, and a young United States negotiating with wealthy railroad owners in an attempt to join the East and the West. The album offers the listener a range of different perspectives as Hyland translates this epic tale into songs.
We’ll sit alongside the engineer who bravely drove the first westbound train across the country and we’ll see the world through the eyes of an ex-civil war officer and veteran who happily turned brothel piano player. We’ll ride through the dangerous chaos with famous Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight, who was immortalized by Larry McMurtry in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove. We’ll hear from the women in Utah who were the first American women to vote in an election and we’ll bear testimony to the United States, whose economy was struggling, steal land once promised to the Lakota. You’ll see the defeat of General Custer at “The Battle of the Little Big Horn” known to the Lakota as “The Battle of the Greasy Grass” from the point of view of the Lakota.
There are too many characters in the West to cover, but the common theme among the majority of the characters on this album is their struggle to survive and how love is usually the driving force behind that will.
Today Glide is excited to offer an exclusive premiere of “Today’s A Good Day To Die (Battle of the Greasy Grass”, a song that follows the Battle of the Little Big Horn from the point of view of three different Native American men who took part in the fight. Contrasting a banjo with an electric guitar, Hyland imbues the song with a country rock sound that pays proper tribute to his bluegrass roots. With a sound that is reminiscent of acts like Tom Petty and Todd Snider, Hyland lays out a tale of historical battle from the perspective of different participants. The song is topped off with an impressive guitar solo at the tail end.
Hyland talks about the story behind the song in explaining that the different perspectives offered are “the 2 Lakota members Chief Gall and Crazy Horse, and a Cheyenne named Yellow Nose. The first verse is Chief Gall, whose two wives and 3 children were among the first killed by Custer’s men and whose anger helped repel the initial attack by Reno’s men, the second verse is Crazy Horse whose brave charge broke through Custer’s lines, and the third verse is about Yellow Nose, who entered the battle with his rifle and ended it with his sword.
It’s important to remember the first casualties of this battle were unsuspecting women and children. The very first casualty was a boy who was out scouting with his father. They saw the approaching US Army but were also spotted by Custer’s scouts. A chase ensued. The father made it back in time to warn parts of the camp, but Custer’s scouts caught and killed the boy.
‘Today’s a good day to die,’ is a phrase often attributed to Crazy Horse. As the story goes, Crazy Horse shouted this phrase at the outset of the battle to drum up courage among his tribesmen to fight the attacking solders. The core message behind the phrase is that if there is ever a time to fight to the death for everything you love and believe in, now’s the time.”
In discussing the approach to producing the song, he offers a unique approach:
“When it comes to producing, I like to cast the instruments like characters in a play. Each instrument is chosen with intent as is the groove.
I wanted to bass line and drums to be reminiscent of hip hop. I needed the beat to have the urgency you might hear in a Tupac song because that’s the type of emotions we’re dealing with in the story. Johnny Moeller’s ferocious electric blues guitar only adds to the ache and anger that the Lakota people felt that day. The banjo and acoustic guitar represent the simplicity of how the Lakota live and their closeness with the Earth.”
For more music and info visit jameshylandmusic.com.