It’s been an interesting eight years for Chris Roberts since he originally released The Way West via a Nashville publishing company and now has self-released the re-imagined album removing a few tracks, re-ordering the track list and and replacing the removed tunes with new tracks (“Gold,” “Take the Night,” “Always You” and “Only You”) along with an acoustic rendition of the title track, “The Way West,” one of my favorite songs from the original record (along with “Song For A Girl”). In that time he’s continued to write and record songs in Nashville, play songwriter rounds and other events while also showcasing his musical versatility via singles and an album released in the Bluegrass genre. While those songs are great, he’s at his best in the singer-songwriter realm where he’s able to blend his influences into a singular album that places him amongst the best of the best (in this writer’s humble opinion) as a singer, songwriter and producer.
In the original album review, I said “I Believe In You” is as strong a love song as it is a song about eternal optimism and faith in the goodness of humanity while “Heartless World” offers a similar vibe in it’s story about love providing a guiding light even when all hope seems lost (and features ethereal harmonies from Fleming and John). For as strong as the (other songs) are on this record, it is the 1-2 punch of (two tracks) on The Way West, the title track “The Way West” and “Song For A Girl” which are the anchors that give The Way West its heart, heft and emotional (center). “The Way West” feels like it could’ve been on a McCartney record with its gift of melody and visual lyrics as an homage to the beautiful Montana lands from which Roberts came while “Song For A Girl” is as beautiful as it is personal for Roberts as he sings about being a father and it reminds me of something Lionel Richie might’ve written in years gone by.
The thought about those songs remains these years later and this is an album I personally return to all the time. The three new songs only add to the wonder that is the album and it’s truly wonderful that this album has been finally given another for audiences to enjoy as Chris Roberts is clearly one of the best “unheralded” artists working in Nashville (he released Mountain Standard Time, a fantastic bluegrass album, in 2020). “Gold” has beautiful melody and storytelling while “Take The Night” feels like a song primed for mainstream country playlists with its laidback lyrical melody. Finally, “Only You” is a truly wondrous love song. The kind made for key moments in the soundtracks of romantic films, it’s that cinematic and joins the title track and “Song For A Girl” as the emotional core of this album.
The more one listens to Chris Roberts’ The Way West the great songs and albums of singer/songwriters like Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, Randy Newman, Phil Vassar and Mary Chapin Carpenter spring to mind. That is to say that anyone who enjoys great melodies, great vocals and of course lyrics with a purpose will find something to enjoy here.
You can listen to The Way West on Apple Music by clicking the player below the cover art or by buying on iTunes here.