If classic country music from the 60s and 70s with a comedic edge is your thing, you’ll love Trailer Radio. Just speaking for the music, their new album is excellent: the rhythm section of bassist Joe Ongie and drummer Kenny Soule swings, and the band’s two guitarists David Weiss and Mike Dvorkin are an encyclopedia of smartly chosen C&W and soul licks. Not all the songs here are funny, but the ones that are really hit the spot.
If country radio still played country music, the album’s opening track, Football Widow would be a monster hit. It sounds like something Tom T. Hall might have written for somebody like, say, Lynn Anderson, about 40 years ago. Musically, it’s a throwback to the Bakersfield sound of ten years before that, with upbeat honkytonk lead guitar intertwined with pedal steel. Frontwoman Shannon Brown’s bright twangy delivery makes it clear that she won’t accept defeat – and as the song goes on, she gets even. The second track, A Little Too Old and a Lot Too Ugly is cruel, and hilarious, and spot-on: it’s an anthem for any woman who’s had to fend off old Viagroid geezers in bars. It’s also got some sweetly multitracked 12-string and acoustic guitar, too.
Boll Weevil is a surreal, twisted Texas shuffle as Buck Owens might have done it; Southern Accents, a slow soul-infused ballad with more of those juicy, tremoloing, artfully layered guitar parts. With its Del Shannon style 50s rock vibe, He’s a Six is a thoughtful number about settling – and wine goggles – with some memorably surfy baritone-style guitar. The band follows that with Like a Train Left the Tramp, a joyously bouncy honkytonk kissoff song: “I took everything he had except his old guitar and his amp and I left him like a train left the tramp.”
Streets of Savannah is a detour into classic 60s soul music, pulsing along on a mellow Hendrix-influenced groove. I’m Not Leaving I’m Just Looking proves they’re just as good at western swing, then they rock out with the Stevie Ray Vaughan-style 11:59, Brown leaving no doubt that she’s had it up to here. The album winds up with Jack Daniels, a Stonesy rock song that explores the aftermath of overdoing it one too many times. How genuinely ironic that some of the best real country music around is being made in New York City. Trailer Radio’s next gig is on Jan 17 at 8 PM at the comfortable, laid-back Shrine in Harlem.