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EP Review: Trey Ackerman – Lonely on the Road

Artist: Trey Ackerman

Album: Lonely on the Road

Year: 2017

Label: independent

Genre: 60s/70s country

This week’s review ties wonderfully back into Jasmine Rochelle’s piece, Ain’t It Nice In Here: The History Of Cinderella Studios from a couple of weeks ago. Like Wayne Moss and the ever-growing legacy of Cinderella Studios, music leaves a lasting impression on each and every one of us. Trey Ackerman—the son of session musician Willie Ackerman and Moss’ longtime friend and colleague—shows us just how unique that impression is.

“Ackerman comes from a long line of musicians; his maternal grandmother, mother, and father were all in the industry, and for much of his life he was surrounded by the best musicians and producers—Wayne Moss included—that Nashville had to offer.” Rochelle writes. Ackerman continues, going more in-depth about his musical upbringing: “I was fascinated by it all when I was a kid. Dad would take me into the studios and, even here at Cinderella, I’d lay on the floor and listen to mixes and watch these guys cut records. I thought it was normal to have all this talent around. They’d learn a song, and by the third time they played it, it was good enough to be a number one record. I thought that was the way everyone played because that’s all I knew. I didn’t realize growing up that the people surrounding me were the best of the best. I’m not even sure they realized it at the time, but songs and records were coming out of there every few minutes, and that was my musical upbringing.”

Surprisingly, being surrounded and brought up by all this talent, Lonely on the Road is only Ackerman’s first EP. However, it is not his only musical endeavour. Ackerman has been a musician and songwriter since childhood, learning to sing, play guitar, drums, and piano at the age of eight. Together, at twelve years old, with a friend by the name of Arnie Powell—who’s father just so happened to be the great Webb Pierce’s manager—they penned a song that would go on to be recorded by Pierce after hearing the two boys play it over the phone. It doesn’t end there though, for Ackerman, the musical chips always seemed to be stacked in his favour! Even after life had led him down a different path for a while—software engineering, network administration, and cyber-security.

(L to R): Buddy Spicher, Wayne Moss, Trey Ackerman, Lloyd Green and Robert Lucas

Ackerman was inspired to put together Lonely on the Road after both his parents had passed on. “For Dad, I wanted to make it sound like the late 60s, early 70s country with a lot of strings, organic, all acoustic instruments, and only one or two takes. Just like they used to do it at that time, which was when he was doing peak number of sessions. I also wanted to make the record with Dad’s friends that I grew up watching and learning from in the studio. Including Wayne as co-producer, Buddy Spicher handling string arrangements, Charlie McCoy on harmonica and vibraphone, Buddy Blackmon on Banjo, Lloyd Green on Dobro, Pig Robins on piano, and Dee Moeller and Ray Walker helping with some of the backing vocals. So, the sound of the final product was very true to that era, because those were some of the key players.” Ackerman tells Lula. As for the song selections he says, “They were some of Mom’s favourite tunes we would sing together sitting around her kitchen table in Kerrville, TX. I think track one [“Last thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning” written by Gary P. Nunn and Donna Farar] was the last tune we shared before her sudden passing. So, I just wanted to put those songs out into the universe for her to continue to enjoy.”

Dee Moeller and Trey Ackerman

Ackerman showcases his phenomenal songwriting skills on the title track where you’ll hear the lovely Dee Moeller’s beautifully complementary backing vocals. Ackerman’s version of “Autumn Leaves” brings to mind Willie Nelson’s version, and not just because I find their voices quite similar. Ackerman, however, hooks me with its somber melancholy. “You’ll also find Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me” on this EP. Here I am writing an album review where I’m supposed to tell you all the reasons to buy a copy, and I have no words to describe how much I love Ackerman’s rendition of this song. You’ll just have to hear this one for yourself. Just… have tissues nearby.

The tempo picks up, and the style switches to bluegrass for the fifth and final track. The first time I heard it I just knew there just had to be some sort of backstory and Ackerman provided! “While doing genealogy, we discovered my wife’s Great, Great Grandmother‘s arrest record for lewd behaviour and selling liquor in Greenbrier, TN. So, my wife and I wrote a song about it together called “Run Granny Run.” I mean, who doesn’t have a salty granny in their family tree! Right?” Trey, the backstory is so much better than I had imagined, and I still giggle when the song plays! It’s brilliant, and you’re right. We’ve all got a salty granny of our own and God bless her!

The magic of Cinderella Sound Studios, the touch and attention to detail of these fine musicians comes through so clearly in the tender simplicity of the production. You can feel that the hearts of everyone who worked on the album were truly in the music, and in tribute to their friend and college, and his family. I certainly shed a few tears at the overwhelming realization of how many industry greats were floating through my speakers that I otherwise would have never known the names of. That’s what makes this review so special. I was lucky enough to listen to the recording of Rochelle’s interview with Wayne Moss, Dee Moeller, and Trey Ackerman himself and hearing the way the stories were told with such fondness warms my heart. Not only did we get to tell the story of this wonderful sound studio, we also get to tell the story of one of the works of art recorded there. It doesn’t get any better than this. I love my job!

Get yourself a copy of Lonely on the Road, you can find it on iTunes, Amazon CDBaby, and more, and picture yourself laying on the carpeted floor at Cinderella Studios just watching this album come together. The musicians, the voices, the laughs, and stories included. I’m sure it was an experience they all won’t soon forget because it’s an album I certainly won’t. Thank you for sharing your story, Trey! Jasmine speaks so highly of you, of all of you, and I can’t wait to meet you all someday!

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