Western Centuries has good pal Jim Lauderdale helping them through some “Heart Broke Syndrome,” premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Feb. 18).
The track’s sentiment is a simple one, according to the trio’s Jim Miller, drawing from the sudden death of a friend’s grandmother. “It’s about reaching into the depths of sadness and trying to end on a hopeful note,” Miller, a former Donna the Buffalo member and Dirk Powell cohort, tells Billboard. “People go into such grief; The woman I wrote about was actually hospitalized at one point. There’s no good in it, but I tried to find a hopeful message about community and family and how they help get us through these things.”
Lauderdale, meanwhile, has been a friend of Miller’s for 35 years, since the Donna the Buffalo days, and have stayed in touch ever since.
“I called him, and he came to the studio in Nashville and sang on a couple of songs on [the album],” Miller says. “When you get the chance to have Jim Lauderdale’s voice on something you’re doing, you take as much as you can get.” Lauderdale adds, “I was honored to sing harmony on ‘Heart Broke Syndrome.’ It’s a song of depth and groove by one of my favorite bands. If they need me I’ll be there.”
“Heart Broke Syndrome” appears on Western Centuries’ third album Call the Captain, which comes out April 3. Much of the set mines topical terrain, including “Long Dreadful Journey” about class and religious battles, “Dynamite Kid” about colonialism and land grant battles in northern New Mexico, “Lifeblood Sold” about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Reservation and “Space Force,” Miller’s tongue-in-cheek theme song for the proposed new military branch — which has already liked the song on social media.
“Y’know, it’s strange because we write separately and bring the songs kind of finished to the band,” Miller says. “Each of us works in isolation, but there’s two anti-missionary songs on there. We’re like, ‘What?! How?’ I’m not sure. I guess it’s just the state of mind we’re in. It’s hard to explain.”
Miller says Western Centuries plans to “to do our due diligence and tour our little buns off” in support of Call the Captain, starting April 1. Meanwhile, having a third album has instilled an idea in Miller and his younger bandmates Cahalen Morrison and Ethan Lawton that their group just might have some legs. “It’s funny, kind of like, ‘Oh, we’re a thing now. We actually have a body of work,'” Miller notes. “That’s pretty cool. We have an age span — I’m 67, Cahalen is 34, Ethan 42. But we always have a great time together and travel well, together, which is a true test. That part hasn’t changed…so I think we have a lot more to do together.”
Listen to “Heart Broke Syndrome” below.