With their sophomore effort, Daniel C. & The Hometown Heroes hearken back to classic country while embellishing their songs with modern flair. As Daniel C. Lydon sings, “I miss that old rock and roll with a little bit of twang, kinda shit that frees your soul and rattles in your brain.”
Lydon started playing guitar in college. He had a couple of neighbors who would play music in the courtyard. One day, he bought a cheap guitar from a pawn shop and told them he was ready to jam. Gradually, he started working his way toward a bigger stage, performing at weddings and small venues around town.
In 2018, Daniel C. & The Hometown Heroes released their self-titled debut album. On February 14, 2022, they released their second album, simply titled “Volume 2.” The cover art depicts a bear walking along the Council Bluffs side of the Missouri River, as a nod to the album’s midwestern roots.
Lydon describes the band’s genre as a blend of country, southern rock, and ‘90s pop. He writes his songs as classic “red dirt country” and presents the tunes to band members with a range of musical backgrounds. His drummer has played in hip-hop, funk, and soul groups; his bass player spent years in metal bands; his lead guitarist plays a deliberately out-of-tune rockabilly guitar, and his second guitarist plays precise 1980s shred guitar. Lydon’s intimate lyrics provide a cohesive narrative thread for these disparate styles.
Recording personnel for the album include Lydon on vocals and guitar, Harry Newlon on bass, Nick Woods on drums, Skinny Webb on guitar, and Rob Reutar on guitar. He also brought in a small horn section for the recording sessions with Zach Setteberg on alto saxophone and Richard Fisher on trumpet.
All band members are originally from Red Oak, Iowa. Lydon currently lives in Council Bluffs.
“Volume 2” was recorded by Jeremy Garrett at Hidden Tracks Studio in Omaha, NE, mixed by Jim Homan of Screen Door Studio, and mastered by Doug Van Sloun of Focus Mastering.
The opening track has echoes of Lynyrd Skynyrd in its crunchy lead guitar. Moving into “Meaning of Mean,” the mandolin ushers in a softer midwestern gothic feel.
On this track, Lydon wanted to write a song that wasn’t about a girl. He brought the story to life with his vivid imagery: “they can’t preach their hate beneath the Iowa clay.” This is a song about domestic violence, a murder ballad inspired by the likes of Waylon Jennings.
“There’s people in the world that treat other people very wrong,” said Lydon. “The only people able to stop them are the people that will stand up for the underdog.”
Lydon is unafraid of trying new songwriting methods. He equipped a perspective change in the final chorus of the gravelly ballad “I’m Never Alone.” He also had a lot of fun with recording techniques. For “Watch Me Now,” Lydon brought several friends to the studio and recorded their applause, layering until it sounded like an audience of two hundred.
The car door slam at the beginning of “Pop Country Plague” recalls “Thick N’ Thin” off The Black Crowes’ debut album, leading into a crisp twang on the guitar. This tune functions as a commentary about the state of country music, calling for a return to nostalgic times. Lydon cleverly worked in references to inspirations to favorite songs, like “Born to Run.”
Lydon has some serious misgivings about the genre as it stands today. He said that a lot of songs on the radio right now are “not very raw or real.”
“You can tell, I can tell, if somebody onstage with a guitar actually means what they’re singing, and they can feel it,” he said. “I miss that portrayal of emotion. Johnny Cash, Willie [Nelson], Kris Kristofferson. You know they have experienced that.”
Much of modern country music, he said, panders to the audience. There are a few doing it authentically, such as Tyler Childers, Brandi Carlile, and Sturgill Simpson. But Lydon misses the passion and charisma of the classics.
Lydon’s songwriting often deviates from classic country forms. “Hurricane” boasts more colorful chord voicings than heard on most country radio. He returns to his roots on “Hardwood Floors,” a stripped-down acoustic love song that feels like he is singing it to the one he loves.
The closing track, “Next 2 U,” brings back his rock-and-roll growl for an 80s influenced rock number, full of sustained drumheads and heavy reverb. The song’s name is a nod to icon Prince, cited by Lydon as his all-time favorite artist.
While using some classic country tropes in songs like “Whiskey Guitars and Dark-Haired Women,” Lydon also paints a portrait of a strong, fierce woman in “Hurricane.” He dwells in a place of self-reflection in songs like “Pipe Bomb” that demonstrate emotional maturity and depth.
Lydon’s vocals are influenced by “anybody that screams too much”: Bruce Springsteen, Waylon Jennings, Whiskey Myers, a little touch of Nathaniel Rateliff. He portrays emotion through these dynamic changes, leaning into his rough growl on the hard-driving sections, and smoothing it out when the song calls for a little sweetness.
Daniel C. & The Hometown Heroes will be playing their album release show at the Slowdown on Saturday, March 26, with opening acts Pony Creek and Into The Gray.
Masks are recommended but not required for vaccinated guests. See Slowdown’s full guidelines and policy here. Please note, all ages must have a valid photo ID for admission.