"You wanna write a song that’s been there forever," Ian Noe said in the press materials for his sophomore album River Fools & Mountain Saints. "When you listen to ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ by The Band, you don't think about what year it is. It sounds like it’s always been there."

Ian says his goal for this album was to make each song like that, and those are high stakes but when you listen to the 12 songs that make up this LP, it doesn't feel out of reach at all. It's the Kentucky alt-country singer's second proper album, following his excellent 2019 debut album Between The Country, and it covers a lot of ground that its predecessor didn't. After making his debut with Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, etc), Ian made this one at The Bomb Shelter with Andrija Tokic, who caught Ian's ear after Alabama Shakes' "Hold On" was played in the grocery store he was working in at the time. "Additionally - this was over ten years ago and while I was working on a collection of 'war ballads' — I saw the name 'The Bomb Shelter' and found that Andrija owned amazing analog equipment," Ian added. "I made a promise to myself that I would one day work with him."

Ian's backing band for the album included The Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit keyboardist Derry deBorja, and it's made up of songs that were written between 2019 and 2021, both before and during the pandemic. The title of the album came to Ian before any of the songs, and it ended up serving as a "concept and a guiding principle" for the album, which touches on Ian's grandfather's death, a flood that hit his hometown of Beattyville, Kentucky in 2020, his own heartbreak, and other stories about members of his hometown community, including local veterans and the indigenous people and cultures of the region. Those stories may seem disparate on paper, but Ian says there's one theme that ties it all together: water.

Ian has called John Prine one of his biggest influences, and you can hear that coming through both in his knack for warm, timeless songs that blur the lines between folk and country and his knack for gripping storytelling, and he says this album in particular falls somewhere in between "White Oak on the Hill" by bluegrass pioneer (and Kentucky legend) Bill Monroe and "Lookin' Out My Back Door" by swamp rock vets Creedence Clearwater Revival. That's a big range, but it makes sense for an album that treks through twang-fueled rock ("Pine Grove [Madhouse]," "POW Blues"), traditional country and bluegrass ("Lonesome As It Gets," "Strip Job Blues 1984"), ethereal balladry ("Ballad of a Retired Man," "One More Night"), sweeping, string-laden country pop ("Road May Flood / It's A Heartache"), and more. It's an album that seamlessly crosses boundaries between different musical genres, eras, and regions, and Ian credits the diverse sound to being able to spend more time on this one and having bigger production than on his debut.

With so many stories to tell and so many musical barriers to break down, I wondered if there were any overarching ideas that listeners took away from these songs, but when I asked him, his answer was simple: "The main thing I hope people take away from this album is that there are still people out there who can write a damn song."

The LP officially comes out this Friday (3/25) via on Thirty Tigers (pre-order), but you can hear it now. A full stream premieres right here:

Ian Noe -- 2022 US Tour Dates
3/25 - Lexington, KY - The Burl
3/26 - Lexington, KY - The Burl
3/31 - Nashville, TN - The Basement East
4/1 - Athens, GA - The Lewis Room at Tweed Recording
4/2 - Charlotte, NC - Neighborhood Theatre
4/7 - Macon, GA - GRant's Lounge
4/8 - Birmingham, AL - Saturn
4/9 - Asheville, NC - The Grey Eagle
4/19 - Richmond, KY - EKU Center for the Arts
4/22 - Denver, CO - Globe Hall
4/23 - Salt Lake City, UT - The State Room
4/30 - Indio, CA - Stagecoach Music Festival

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