My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Eric Strickland

Album Review: Eric Strickland and the B Sides – ‘I’m Bad For You’

i'm bad for youI enjoyed this North Carolina group’s debut album last year so much it made my top 10 list for the year. I am delighted to report that the follow up is of a similar quality. I was also pleased to hea a fiddle added to the lineup.

The driving Waylonesque ‘The Whiskey Seems To Always Change My Mind’ oozes retro but convincing outlaw attitude, with a wry lyric about a straight and narrow kind of who gets pulled off the straight and narrow by drinking. It makes an exciting opening to the record. The similarly paced but slightly more Southern rock title track gets a bit repetitive.

The outstanding track is the waltz ‘Angel Like You’, which reminds me of some of Jamey Johnson’s best work. The story song tells the story of a hard working couple, both working 50- hour weeks and still not making ends meet, but whose love sustains them. It’s rooted in reality with its admissions of fights and the man’s temptation to turn to crime, rejected because he knows it would make him “less of a man”. Some pretty fiddle adds the final touch. Lovely.

Also inspired by the reality of today’s harsh economic climate, ‘Crude Oil Blues’ interestingly marries its modern message (complaining about gas prices) to an authentic Jimmie Rodgers style yodelling country blues.

Another contemporary lyric combined with more retro sound is the fast paced cautionary tale of ‘Methamphetamines’. This one sounds like Jerry Reed with added harmonica, and portrays a man’s descent into addiction and prison.

On a more traditional theme, ‘Heartache Hall Of Shame’ is a honky tonk shuffle with a musician narrator lamenting his foolish jettisoning of a lover for his band and the vain hopes of fame. Another shuffle, the poignant ‘Unwanted’ tells sympathetically of a has-been country singer, a man who is a

Used to be full of shattered dreams that never quite came true
He was top of the line back in his prime a hero for me and you
Now his songs have been forgotten and his name got lost in time
And now he drowns in memories and the liquor and the wine

‘So Easy’ is more personally painful as the protagonist quizzes his loved one about her new love interest, and just where he went wrong. It is the emotional equivalent of picking at a wound, and the rawness of the emotion has an intensity which makes it hit hard.

Drinking is the remedy for a broken heart in ‘Brandy On My Mind’, written by band member Gary Braddy (Brandy is the girl who did the damage, not the drink). Another broken man narrates ‘Not Enough’, as he fights an alcohol problem:

I’m a brother to the blues and a cousin to the rain
My best friends are Jim Beam and Jack Daniels
They’ve always seemed to help me with the pain
My woman says she can believe my drinking
My drinkin’ can’t believe she’d say those things
It’s pointless for me to fight
Cause she won’t be home tonight
And I realise I’ve been talking to myself

Up to now I’ve always been half crazy
But I think that I’ve finally lost my mind

The album closes with two live cuts: an effective cover of Waylon’s ‘Lucille (You Won’t Do Your Daddy’s Will)’, and a retread ‘18 Wheels Of Hell On The Highway’ from his previous album, which is fine, although it wasn’t one of my favorite tracks from that record.

This is highly recommended to anyone who wants to hear some solid, well-written and performed honky tonk music.

Grade: A

Album Review: Eric Strickland and the B Sides – ‘Honky Tonk Till I Die’

These days it seems easier to find excellent country records on independent labels than on major ones. North Carolina’s Eric Strickland and his band the B Sides produce tightly played solid honky-tonk music with a slight outlaw edge, which is highly enjoyable throughout. There is no fiddle, but plenty of steel. But what lifts their album above others of the kind is the excellent songwriting (all of which comes courtesy of lead singer and guitarist Strickland).

The title track is a defiant celebration of the joys of the honky-tonk life despite its health implications. ‘Standing In The Headlights’ is a fine and thoughtful song about the struggles of life as a musician, which has a lot of appeal:

Just cause I’m from nothing don’t mean I’m nothing

A small town boy with big town dreams

Chasin’ rainbows neath the neon

Ain’t as easy it seems

You put your heart into the music

You pour your soul into your songs

Then you realize they just don’t get it

And you’re out there all alone

‘My First Love’ is also good, with fond memories about growing up with the love of country music leading into a career as a musician. It leads into the hidden track ‘Drinking Whiskey’, a regretful steel-laced contemplation of a lost love, where drink doesn’t erase the memory.

The dark ‘Freedom’ is excellent, a steel-loaded, downbeat portrait of a man in the most intense despair, and on the verge of, perhaps, suicide:

He sits on the edge of a bed by the window watching the world go by

Nobody knows just how close he is to the end of his life

Holding a picture of a woman he loves in his shaking hands

He once quit drinking

But today he’s been thinking

About starting again

And it’s hard to keep on pretending

That the pain ain’t real any more

There’s just enough time to share all his feelings

Before freedom comes knocking on his door

He stares at the phone on the nightstand beside him

Wondering who he could call

But no one can help this fight with himself

So he throws it against the wall

He picks up a pen and writes her a letter

Explaining it all

There’ll be no more crying over all of her lying

Cause the hammer will soon fall

And it’s hard to keep on pretending

That the pain ain’t real any more

There’s just enough time to share all his feelings

Before freedom comes knocking on his door

Just as good is the outstanding ‘Haggard And Hell’, which with more agonized steel places the heartbroken protagonist at a crossroads.

While it is the least distinguished song here, ‘Her’ is an okay love song about a nice girl in love with a man who happily admits he is ‘tattooed white trash, I’m a real low-life’ – but can’t be as bad as he paints himself, given the unquestioning support of his loved one. The sardonic ‘Womankind’ has a more jaundiced approach verging on misogyny after the protagonist falls for a heartless beauty:

Woman, kind?

No, I don’t think so

She broke my heart and left me here to die

It’s not right, but she done me like she wants to

I’m sorry if I don’t believe in woman kind

I also enjoyed ‘Shine Down On Me’, with snatches of harmonica. The protagonist works a dead-end job for not much reward with no obvious end in sight, but retains an optimistic outlook on life.

There are a couple of trucking songs neatly sequenced together two-thirds of the way through the set list. ‘18 Wheels Of Hell On The Highway’ is fairly standard fare reminiscent of the genre’s 70’s heyday, but ‘The Day The Truckers Shut this Country Down’ is pretty good, championing the vital work of transporting goods across the US, with twangy, punchy lead guitar and supporting steel.

My only criticism is with the cheap packaging of the CD, which omits two songs (‘Standing In The Headlights’ and ‘Drinking Whiskey’) from the track listing (although the CD itself has a cool vinyl-effect image printed on it.

Sample the title track on youtube.

This excellent record is available digitally everywhere, with the CD available from CDBaby.

Grade: A