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Songs We Love: Brent Cobb, 'Solving Problems'

It's absolutely no shame that the highest-grade country songwriting seamlessly blends storytelling and advertising techniques; the last genre (Top 40 isn't a genre) whose adherents care about the radio values succinct thoughts that get inside people's heads. Sometimes, though, a songwriter figures out how to get the same effect without the sale; her or his hooks feel humanly generated, framed by personal encounters, memories and longing.

Brent Cobb, <em>Shine On Rainy Day</em>.
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Brent Cobb, Shine On Rainy Day.

Brent Cobb is that kind of songwriter, a man obsessed with the utterly ordinary and in the way it becomes transcendent through casual reflection over time. Scenarios in the songs he's written for country's top stars, like "Tailgate Blues" for Luke Bryan or "Old S***" for Miranda Lambert, could have — probably — happened to you last weekend.

In "Solvin' Problems" (co-written by Scotch Taylor), from his upcoming album Shine On Rainy Day (produced by distant cousin Dave Cobb), Cobb cops the melody from John Hartford's easy-lovin' classic "Gentle On My Mind." Except the romance — okay, bromance — he depicts is another kind: the bond between two songwriters hanging out on a balcony in a Music Row office building. "Conversation covers everything and in between from modern music to 'Mama Tried' by Merle," Cobb sings in his smoke-stained voice, capturing the creative process with no excess romanticism. By song's end, maybe Cobb and his buddy have written a hit, or maybe they've just passed a memorable Sunday afternoon. "Solving Problems" is emblematic of the calm insights Cobb offers on Shine On Rainy Day, an album genuinely worthy of comparisons to often-invoked names like Jesse Winchester and Kris Kristofferson.

Shine On Rainy Day comes out Oct. 7 on Low Country Sounds/Elektra Records.

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Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.