NEW YORK – October 28, 2022 – Back in the late 90s and early aughts, The Great Divide helped set the Red Dirt scene: the band was playing 200 shows a year and released five albums together, they signed a record deal in Nashville, and Garth Brooks recorded one of their songs. To say they made a mark is putting it lightly–if you were to poll musicians making music in Oklahoma and Texas at the time, it’s likely The Great Divide was on their list of influences. Nearly 20 years after their last album together, the band is back to release Providence, out today.
"The Great Divide sounds as fresh as ever musically." - No Depression
It’s helpful to understand the road it’s taken to get here: When frontman and songwriter Mike McClure left for a solo career in 2003, marking the end of the band as its original lineup—McClure, bassist Kelley Green and brothers Scotte and JJ Lester on rhythm guitar and drums—the break seemed definite. McClure moved on, releasing nine albums on his own, and for anyone who knew of their turbulent end, it was easy to assume the band would never reunite, let alone restore faith in one another. Fast forward a decade, and The Great Divide began playing shows together again, a starting point in moving past the chaotic time surrounding the breakup. Fast forward another decade, and they’re releasing Providence, with the addition of keyboardist Bryce Conway, who played a pivotal role in getting the band back together.
“It was his excitement about being in the band because he always loved our band – he just kept saying ‘Man, we really need to do a new record’ and just kept on us,” McClure told Outsider
. “I think sometimes when you inject some new life into a band or any kind of situation, it adds new energy. His energy was really a catalyst for us getting back in the studio. Once we were back in there, it all really clicked.”
Providence looks at how far the band has come as a group and individually—and spends even more time looking ahead. “The overall arc of the record deals with time; it asks how much time we have left in our lives and how we want to spend the remaining years,” McClure says. “It’s about admitting the areas where work is needed and putting in the effort to do something about it.”
Within the album’s ten tracks, The Great Divide leans on pillars the band was built on 20 years ago: a reverence for masterful, relatable songwriting and a lack of interest in following the rules—though this time, the rules they’re circumventing seem to center more around the idea that anything and anyone outlaw-adjacent can’t also be happy, seek balance and want more from their lives and legacies.
"If anyone ever cares to study the lineage of Red Dirt music, it will need to be separated into two distinct eras: pre and post-Great Divide,” fellow Red Dirt pioneer and Oklahoman Jason Boland says. “Their impact on the alt-country scene cannot be overstated. They continually blazed up in the halls of convention, and hurled bottle after bottle at the mainstream monolith."
"Providence represents reunion and maturity while still providing enough stomp ‘n’ swing to keep a dancehall sweaty deep into the night." - Americana Highways
“[Back in the 90s], we would talk about how we miss good country music—not the line dance stuff that was coming out of Nashville at the time, “ JJ Lester says. “We decided we would try to save country music.”
“When we started the process of recording this album, we would run through a song and we would all just look at each other; it felt like 1997.” he continues. “When I listen to these songs, they are the story of the last 15 years.”
Providence begins with “Wrong Is Overrated,” a direct conversation between McClure and the rest of the band.“It’s an admission of my part of the blame on what led to the break up in the first place,” McClure says. “I made a mess of things–too much booze and too many drugs mixed with ego and frustration. The classic combination of downfall for so many musicians. Luckily though, I have a new lens of sobriety to look through, and I’m coming from a place of healing, forgiveness and rebirth.”
“I Can Breathe Again” is a tried-and-true love song, hingeing around the idea that love has this transformative power that can lift you up and out of whatever it is that you’re going through.
“Good Side” began with a simple chord progression, evolved into a melody, and in its final form, is an invitation to find a silver lining, some joy and a lighter spirit. “Set It All Down” follows, a continuation of sorts. “Slipping Away” is a relatable take on days, months, and years moving forward, seemingly in an instant; “Infinite Line” follows a similar theme, a pondering how quickly 20 or 50 years can pass by.
“In an age when so much divisiveness reigns, it is only fitting that The Great Divide reunite.” - Glide Magazine
“There is a coming full circle aspect for us as a band; as performers and people,” McClure says about Providence. “Everyone is bringing their best to the table for the first time in years, and when that happens, The Great Divide is a force,” he says. “This album brings with it a certain hope.”
Providence Track Listing:
- Wrong is Overrated
- I Can Breathe Again
- Good Side
- Set It All Down
- Slippin' Away
- Heaven Is High
- My Sweet Lily
- Until We Cross
- Into the Blue
- Infinite Line