The underground has always been a place where we can count on finding excellent treasures in the pop music lexicon; whether it be from brooding bluegrass to contemplative folk ala the singer/songwriter movement, there’s been even more to say about indie Americana this year than any other aesthetic. Proving to be one of the most original acts to emerge in his scene this year is none other than Troy Engle, a bluegrass-influenced singer/songwriter whose brand of Americana is familiar to any of us who love bucolic songcraft but offers a very progressive, harmony-driven take on the genre that embodies the raw sound of classic folk music. His new song “Outrun the Pain” is an anthem that adequately encompasses the fire of the scene that he’s emerging from and much more in what could easily be viewed as a strong contender for indie bluegrass song of the year. Joined by his backing band Southern Skies, it should be said that Engle sounds like he was made for this business in his latest release.
Bluegrass has been evolving a lot lately, and alternative influences have become a lot more common than they were in the past, which is helping to keep the genre fresh and relevant as pop music has become increasingly more transcendent and free of the restrictions that were created through traditional categorization. Engle embraces so many influences in his style, and “Outrun the Pain” in many ways could be viewed as his signature song and a great way for listeners who aren’t that familiar with him to learn what he’s all about as an artist and a performer.
No depression’s driving his reflection, and there isn’t a sense of regret that a lot of fans have come to associate with grass’ more successful singles. There is a very loving, easygoing sort of inventiveness to his lyrics that are all at once charming and incredibly awe-inspiring when you break them down to their bones. It’s hard not to like a singer who isn’t chasing some agenda or drawing from the same themes that have led the bulk of audiences in countrified music to consider it a somewhat predictable and unexciting genre since the last little burst of crossover hits in the late 2010s.
The biggest difference between grassroots artists like Troy Engle and their major label cousins in the scene is that Engle doesn’t play like he owes anyone anything. His music is steeped heavily in the modern concept of individuality that has helped the diversified Americana genre to become as big as it has in the past twenty years, especially in circles that would otherwise reject the aesthetics that make this sound such a palatable and relatable element in pop culture. He’s firmly planted in the here and now, and that could go a long way to ensuring his place in the music world as we embark on an intimidating new wave of aesthetical changes that the future will usher in. To me, “Outrun the Pain” is a song with personality but, perhaps more importantly, it’s also about what kind of artist Troy Engle wants to be known as.