Dustin Kensrue is no stranger to straying from the path of expectation. His band Thrice, who formed in the late ’90s in Irvine, California, have continuously reinvented themselves over the course of their existence. Kensrue has done the same, too—briefly quitting music to become a worship leader at the Mars Hill megachurch before improprieties there made him turn back to the squeaky clean (citation needed) world of alternative rock.
He’s also released a number of solo albums that are a world away from Thrice’s ever-evolving experimental post-hardcore. But with new song “Death Valley Honeymoon”—the first single from his new solo album Desert Dreaming—Kensrue has taken another sharp left turn by crafting a beautifully old-fashioned country song. It’s one that, like most country songs, treads the line between sentimentality and schmaltz, but like most great country songs it manages to immerse itself in the former without plunging into the latter.
Telling the story of Kensrue’s maternal grandparents’ honeymoon in the Mojave Desert from their point of view, it sees the singer assume the role of his grandfather while Canadian songwriter Cat Clyde sings a verse in the role of his grandmother. “There were multiple moments while writing that I felt like I was channeling my grandparents’ spirits in one way or another,” says Kensrue of the track, which arrives with a visual accompaniment. “Having Cat sing my grandmother’s verse in the song really brought the whole thing home for me and she absolutely nailed it. Even the actor who plays my grandpa in the video showed up on set and gave me and my sister a start when we saw how eerily his face and smile made him resemble my mom’s dad.”
Coupled with the wonderfully nostalgic video, it’s a touching homage to the legacy and love of family, as well as the genre itself. Check that out below, and expect Desert Dreaming to arrive April 5 via BMG.