Reviews of Middle of the Night:
Self-described as “six songs about insomnia, anxiety, depression and loneliness,” the latest from country outfit the Merles seems well-suited for these times. Started before the pandemic but finished in the midst of it, “Middle of the Night” found frontman and songwriter Todd Deatherage working with producer and multi-instrumentalist Don Cento on this follow-up to the Merles’ 2017 debut album “Hate to Say Goodbye.” The Merles’ forte is straight-shootin’, boot-scootin’ honky-tonk, with pedal steel player Mike Simms providing color to the steady rhythms of drummer Matt Winegardner and upright bassist Phil Spencer. Here’s the track “Always Be a Texan,” which includes a playful jab from Dallas native Deatherage about his hometown baseball team (“I may not be a Rangers fan but I’ll always be a Texan”).
- Peter Blackstock, Austin-American Statesman
Reviews of Hate to Say Goodbye:
Front man Todd Deatherage and company - Loren Tarnow (vocals), Derek Tarnow (guitar), Matt Winegardner (drums) and Phil Spencer (bass) - kick things off with the shuffler “I Told You So” before turning to the title track which deals with the push and pull of the road and family, and current single “Room 242” which conveys the tale of a down and out man who now lives where he once loved. Meanwhile, The Merles juxtapose melody and lyrics in the piano-centered “Six Pack of Heartache” which will have you ready to two-step as he drowns his sorrows, the jaunty “Alcohol and Issues,” which documents his relationship with bottle, and the sorrowful “My Payback." The album is rounded out with “If the Walls Could Talk” where a victim of love recalls being fooled, and the rockabilly “What the Hell I Did Last Night” before closing with the up-tempo, yet firmly (and sadly) decisive, “She's Leaving Me.”
Basil McJagger (The Derailers), Geoff Queen (Hayes Carll), Eddie Dickerson (Curtis Grimes), and Michael St. Clair (Polyphonic Spree) all lend their talents to the project, complimenting the five-piece’s sound centered on male-female harmonies, pedal steel, and brush drum that put forth that traditional country and rockabilly sound making for an enjoyable listen start to finish." - The Daily Country
"The Merles, Hate to Say Goodbye - A regular presence in Austin haunts such as the Little Longhorn Saloon and the White Horse, The Merles capture their easygoing honky-tonk vibe on this full-length debut recorded with engineer Britton Beisenhertz. Leader Todd Deatherage formed the band in 2008 after moving here from Dallas, though he’d previously used the Merles name for busking gigs in Brooklyn. An EP featuring classic covers preceded this collection of 14 originals, a solid creative step for a band that has learned well from its inspirations. The husband-wife team of Derek and Loren Tarnow provide guitars and backing vocals, respectively, with drummer Matt Winegardner and upright bassist Phil Spencer anchoring the rhythm. Renowned steel player Geoff Queen adds his golden touch to many tracks, with additional contributions from fiddler Eddie Dickerson, keyboardist Basil McJagger and horn player Michael St. Clair."
- Peter Blackstock, The Austin Statesman
"The Merles' debut is an authentic mix of classic country, western swing and rockabilly. Frontman Todd Deatherage wrote or co-wrote all 14 tracks on the Austin-band's effort with good results. With pleasant tunes and strong performances "Hate To Say Goodbye" impresses." - Country Standard Time