I 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.