Frankie Ballard fans are in for a musical odyssey when they listen to his third studio album El Rio out June 10.
The journey to the collection’s 10-day tracking session at the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas started with an epic road trip, and there was no packing light. Before leaving for their final destination, Ballard’s band and crew were encouraged to bring cherished instruments and gear for rehearsal stops at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama, and the award-winning Granada Theater in Dallas, Texas.
In a recent Q&A with press, Ballard said the musical mojo he felt at those sacred music places are souvenirs he will have for the rest of his life.
“I knew sitting in that room [at Muscle Shoals], my producer Marshall [Altman], the band and all those guys are like me,” Ballard said. “They grew up obsessing about this kind of stuff. This is the floor where the Rolling Stones cut ‘Brown Sugar.’ What those heroes of ours did there was all right in the front of our mind while we were arranging these new songs.
“Musical inspiration is everything. It’s our spinach. Musicians rise to those kinds of moments and we use those kinds of moments like lifelines.”
The new music definitely has some Sticky Fingers moments, starting with the Chris Stapleton and Lee Thomas Miller co-written rocker “El Camino.” Stapleton, the Cadillac Three front man Jaren Johnston and Kip Moore are the hit-makers behind lustful track two “Cigarette,” while Chris Janson, Ben Hayslip and Craig Wiseman co-wrote the flirty blues “Little Bit of Both.” TC3’s Johnston and Neil Mason co-wrote the dreamy lead single “It All Started With a Beer” with Jeremy Stover.
Ballard updated Bob Seger’s “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” and the emotional closer “You Could’ve Loved Me” in Los Angeles because it felt right to do so.
“We went down to Texas and cut 14 songs, but some things don’t make it,” Ballard said. “Some things don’t come together like you think they would. It just falls flat. It’s just one of the ups and downs of recording like that with a band. But that also leaves room for magic to happen, which also happened a lot.”
Ballard can rest easy knowing he’s giving fans his best work. The entire collection flows like a river.
“I feel like this album is a new sound for us,” Ballard said. “It’s a sound that I think is going to work in country music. I think country music needs this sound. It’s getting back to musicianship and great songs … I’m hoping we hit the mark with it.”