Looking for some new tunes on those road trips to nowhere this fall? Look no further. Here's my latest installment of Scampwalker-approved music.
I've been muttering this band's name longer than the band itself has existed, and I'll admit that it's their moniker that originally caught my eye. Fronted by the singer/songwriter duo of Gabriel Marshall and Byron White, The Damn Quails prove once again that Oklahoma is an epicenter of more than just earthquakes -- some of the genre's best music emanates from the Red Dirt State. Their debut album combines beautiful harmonies, rootsy melodies, and smart lyrics. In an era where record producers can either make or break a young band, it seems that Quails co-producer Mike McClure can do no wrong in turning out honest americana music, and help from Joe Hardy (ZZ Top, Steve Earle, and the Replacements) can't hurt either. Sadly, I have no idea if these cats are bird hunters. Nevertheless, here's hoping The Damn Quails' covey rise continues.
If you're a longtime Stoney frat boy fan looking for songs that are a natural follow-up to "Oklahoma Breakdown," you're probably going to be disappointed. There aren't a lot of boot-stomping tunes on Velvet, LaRue's first studio album in six years, but that doesn't mean it isn't brilliant in its own right. Velvet is a compilation of warm, mystical, and gentle rhythms blended with what are easily LaRue's deepest, most thoughtful lyrics to date. I find myself queing up this album on a cool fall night with a fire in the hearth and a whiskey glass close by.
Yet another Oklahoman to make the list, Jason Boland is an unapologetic, hopelessly romantic country music purist. Since his Pearl Snaps debut in 2009, he's put out a string of reliable honky-tonk country, and Rancho Alto is no different. Adorned with wailing pedal steel and fiddle, it's chock full of songs about hard drinking, hard times, and hard luck. There's nothing particularly new or ground-breaking on the album, but maybe that's the point. In a world where "modern country" implies white country boy rappers and poseur cowboys that wear more eyeliner than my wife, a tall shot of Boland is just the ticket. And if you've never seen these boys live, drop everything and report to your nearest honky-tonk.
Although it's probably coincidence, Good Luck and True Love is an apt name for RK's 9th album. For one, they've pretty much severed all ties with conventional record companies -- Good Luck! -- and they've doubled-down on their committment to producing and promoting their unique sound on their own -- and if that ain't True Love for their craft, then I don't know what is. The album is vintage RK, full of catchy hooks, solid harmonies, and skilled playing. While mostly mid-tempo tunes that are more country than rock, the crunchier RK makes an appearance on "She Likes Money, He Likes Love." And once again, Willy Braun proves that no one can write a road song like him, with "Hit The Ground Runnin'" closing out the album. It's a collection of songs that will easily work its way into your head.
I want to love this album, I really do. And while it contains some enjoyable tracks, Ready for Confetti is not ready for prime time. The title track is as corny as it sounds, with a calypso-infused beat that comes across as inanely ersatz, as does the Buffett-like aping of "Waves on the Ocean." "The Road Goes On and On," a purported response to Toby Keith's ripping off of a Keen classic, feels petty and juvenile. And in "Top Down," Robert Earl sounds like a woozy, bleating, injured goat. Admittedly, Mr. Keen has never had a soothing voice, but his stories normally more than make up for his sonic deficiencies. Don't get me wrong, there are some great tracks on this album. "I Gotta Go" ranks among one of the finer tunes of his deep catalog, and his cover of Todd Snider's "Play a Train Song" sounds like it was written for him. Even so, I find myself skipping through the majority of tracks on this one. Here's hoping Robert Earl just hit a pothole in the road that hopefully extends long into the future.