Chris Norwood isn’t cool.
Or Chris J Norwood, as the Dallas-based singer-songwriter bills himself, is not cool.
So “not cool” that when searching for a synonym for “uncool” that starts with “J” in order to complete a lame joke, this writer could not find one.
Pretty damn uncool.
Norwoodis honest, however, and in a world that becomes more cynical by the moment, the kind of honesty that he conjures and delivers so eloquently and elegantly on his new, very uncool, album I Am Not Cool (Aug. 20th, State Fair Records), well, that kind of uncool is… cool?
The album is the follow-up to Norwood’s much-praised 2017 debut record Longshot.
In addition to Norwood’s genial ability to say things you may not want to hear and leave you appreciating the experience, he is also masterful at a kind of tongue-in-cheek levity that is sorely missing from this genre.
There’s only two kinds of music / What’s true and what ain’t / It only takes three chords to set the record straight
Norwood sings these lyrics on the “I Am Not Cool” title cut, a perfect example of how his economy of words is quizzical, meta, and puts a smile on your face all at the same time.
But, wait, there’s more.
Norwood really gets going on the album’s second single “I Need You (To Quit Breaking My Heart),” which is such a plainly evocative song title that other songwriters should be shaking a fist in Norwood’s general direction for thinking of it first. A universal sentiment succinctly stated.
“It’s a 10-year marriage kind of love song,” he says of the tune, and as if to hammer that description home, Norwood’s wife Carriejoins him on vocals, which adds a whole new level of “what is going on here?!” to the proceedings.
Further on, “Good Guy With A Gun” will remind listeners of the political rhetoric it references, but is more tragically tied to the songs from Norwood’s debut album, which dove head-first into his very personal story of growing up as a child of a father who died by his own hand.
“This song is about that,” he explains, “But more than that it’s about the ridiculous theory that the NRA likes to tout. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun? My dad was a good guy with a gun, so how were we supposed to stop him from killing himself?”
Once again, it is astounding how Norwood is able to take such personal matters, write about them with conviction and clarity, make it catchy and memorable, and make you feel like you challenged yourself and had a chuckle all at once.
Frankly, Norwood says that claiming himself “uncool” may be an awful career move. “I’ll either make it or break it as uncool Chris J Norwood,” he opines on the topic.
But, the thing is, Norwood’s work is righteous no matter how it is perceived by anyone who makes judgments about “career moves.” This brand of vulnerable, self-effacing songwriting, salted with a bit of required brainpower… it’s unique. And it’s here to stay.
Maybe the J stands for “justified?”
-Josh Bloom, Fanatic Promotion