Broken hearts, dark days, lonely nights, and taking the high road are imprinted on classic albums from countless country music legends ranging from Hank Williams to Johnny Cash. These rough-hewn experiences define an artist well beyond the sessions in the recording studio. It pulses through their blood like a reckless freight train teetering on the edge of life and death. Songwriter Ryan Smith lays down a raw portrayal of livin’ hard and escaping one’s own self-inflicted obstacles with his band Four Year Bender’s much-anticipated sophomore studio album, Gettin’ Gone.
A San Francisco favorite and regular at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Four Year Bender is well known as an opener for national acts such as Boz Scaggs, Robert Earl Keen, and Guy Clark. With the release of Gettin’ Gone, the band’s notoriety is on a fast track to widening its audiences well beyond the West Coast. Lead singer Ryan Smith digs deep in the mud to churn out his most prolific songs yet with Josh Zee and Teal Collins of The Mother Truckers guest appearing on “Won’t Be Long” and “Comin’ Home.” Vocalist Megan Slankard performs on “Follow You Always,” and the entire album is produced by long time collaborator Michael Winger.
Faced with the turbulence of alcoholism that struck Smith with a vengeance at the height of the band’s career, hitting rock bottom was the only way he’d rise to finally pull his life together and return to the stage. Two years into his sobriety, Smith cracked-open his guitar case to reflect on a decade-long fight with addiction as he embarked on his new lease on life. The result is a collection of 11 timeless songs chock-full of self-realizations and the sheer beauty that his heart still beats after years of abuse. If one lyric encapsulates Gettin’ Gone, it’s from the single “Comin’ Home”: “I got one hand on the shovel and it’s the only thing that’s holding me up.”