New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: dale watson

Classic, Purist, Smartly Crafted Country Sounds From the Shootouts

The Shootouts are a throwback to the glory days of classic 1950s and 60s country music, with uncluttered 21st century production values. Their songwriting harks back to an era of clever storytelling, jokes with unspoken punchlines and unselfconscious poignancy. Their new album Bullseye is streaming at Soundcloud. These guys really know their retro sounds – it wouldn’t be overhype to mention them in the same sentence with Dale Watson. Their solos are short, concise and always leave you wanting more.

They open with I Don’t Think About You Anymore, which is sort of a heartbroken take on what the Statler Bros. did with Flowers on the Wall, built around a hammer-on rockabilly riff that everybody from Elvis and Johnny Cash on forward have made songs out of.

Brian Poston’s lead guitar twangs and looms ominously in Rattlesnake Whiskey, a spaghetti western shuffle about a moonshiner who gets high on his own supply. Frontman Ryan Humbert sends a shout-out to his mom in Another Mother – as in “you won’t get another mother” – with wistful fiddle and pedal steel in the background.

Bassist Ryan McDermott and drummer Dylan Gomez add an emphatic skinny Elvis strut to Hurt Heartbroke; Poston’s choogling lead out of that slip-key rockabilly piano break is over way too soon. The album’s title track is a western swing instrumental with a long, biting series of tradeoffs between lead guitar and steel. These guys really know their retro sounds

There’s more of that in Here Comes the Blues, an oldschool Bakersfield-style number with a sly couple of Merle Haggard quotes. Everything I Know is Buddy Holly updated for an era with better guitar amps, organ looming in the background and elegant harmony vocals from Emily Bates. Then the band put an energetic spin on Hank Williams in Waiting on You.

They weld a wry, aphoristic lyric to a loping Johnny Cash groove in Missing the Mark, with another lively conversation between guitar and steel on the way out. They go back to a hillbilly boogie bounce in I Still Care, with echoes of 60s George Jones.

The imagery gets really gloomy in the low-key, meticulously crafted heartbreak ballad Forgot to Forget (but dudes, you’re not playing in 3/4: this is too fast, it sounds like 12/8!). They end the album on a high note with the rapidfire party anthem Saturday Night Town. The Shootouts play the album release show on June 12 at 7:30 PM at the Auricle, 201 Cleveland Ave North in Canton, Ohio; cover is $15.

Smart, Sharply Hilarious Black Dirt Country Rock From Joe Stamm

Americana rock bandleader Joe Stamm cut his teeth crooning over crowds of drunks in bars across the High Plains and the Midwest. He’s got a great ear for a story and a catchy tune, and he’s funny as hell. Dale Watson is an obvious comparison; New York’s own Jack Grace is another. Considering that Stamm makes his living on the road in a part of the world populated by freedom-loving people who like a good time, his touring schedule last year wasn’t completely put on ice by lockdowner insanity. He even found the opportunity to put out a new album, The Good & the Crooked (& the High & the Horny)”streaming at Spotify.

Good songwriters never have a hard time finding good musicians, and Stamm is a prime example. Check out lead guitarist Dave Glover’s sizzling flatpicking in Tough Times, Hard Luck, bassist Jonathan Byler Dann and drummer Bruce Moser pushing Stamm’s rapidfire, aphoristic story along. Imagine the Grateful Dead in a lucid moment (if you can) covering John Prine.

Stamm opens the record with the title track, a hillbilly boogie laced with vintage Bakersfield twang and searing blues from Glover. Stamm takes the explosive metaphors in Bombshell – a tall tale about a femme as fatale as you can get – to the next level. with a funny ending that’s too good to give away. Same deal with the album’s funniest song, Blame It on the Dog. This is one bad canine: “Dryhumping in the middle of the night, left on all the lights and who’s the sonofabitch who left up the toilet seat?” Stamm wants to know. It gets even better on the third verse: no spoilers.

Bottle You Up is the album’s most endearingly amusing song: as it turns out, daydrinking is a legacy. Stamm goes into classic honkytonk for Lower When I’m Sober, Dave Zollo’s piano adding a vintage Nashville edge, up to yet another twisted punchline.

As ridiculousy comical as a lot of Stamm’s songs are, some of them are just as serious. On this album, there’s Good Times, a simmering, grimly detailed ballad about the perils of overdoing it. 12 Gauge Storyline works on multiple levels, as a macho murder ballad but also a sobering reminder of how violence has its own legacy: it wouldn’t be out of place in the Lee Bains songbook. And the twangy, soulful, sad Comin’ Home Again is a throwback to 70s outlaw C&W.

“I don’t play no Kane Brown or any of that pop country shit,” Stamm snarls in Pearls to Pigs, as he says so long to Illinois and heads for wilder times in Texas. The psychedelic tinges in that song get darker and shift toward southwestern gothic afterward in Wild Imagination, one of the wildest tales here.

Stamm has a very smartly designed webpage: enough videos and freebies and amusingly dirty merch to get you in serious trouble with your boss. You have been warned. Stamm is playing his birthday show this year on March 13 at Crusens Rt. 29, 1007 N. Main St. in Creve Coeur, Illinois. Your best deal is to show up at 5:30 for a “VIP” seat which includes a good deal where you get a free collectible poster and your first beer is free. Their pizza is pretty cheap and looks really good.

Dale Watson Brings His Crusade for Real Country Music to Midtown

Dale Watson‘s Tuesday night show at Slake, in the old Downtime/Albion space a couple of blocks south of Madison Square Garden, did not begin well. Much as the honkytonk outlaw has a great band, the Lone Stars – Don Pawlak on pedal steel, Chris Crepps on upright bass and Mike Bernal on drums – watching those guys without hardly any of Watson’s vocals in the mix was akin to watching George Jones lipsync. And Watson has an axe to grind. Later in the set, when at last the vocals had been brought up to audible level after repeated complaints from the crowd, he recalled being backstage at the Country Music Awards a few years back and overhearing Merle Haggard and George Jones talking. A guy in a CMA shirt walked by, and one said to the other (Watson couldn’t remember which), “CMA, that stands for Country, My Ass.”

So Watson wrote a song about it, and the rest is history. His contempt for the lightly Americana-flavored corporate pop coming out of Nashville is well known – he played that one, and bookended the set with I’d Rather Be an Old Fart Than a New Country Turd, his kiss-off to Blake Shelton. That virtriol resonated with the crowd, and Watson – a guy who knows which side his bread is buttered on – fed off it, taking requests in between sharing rounds of shots for the band furnished by liquored-up customers. He calls his music Ameripolitan rather than country since that term has been hijacked and misused in the same way that irony has been by the matching-manpurse-and-socks crowd. And when he wasn’t shilling for Lone Star Beer – his Telecaster has a Lone Star sticker on the pickguard – he was shilling for the Ameripolitan Awards, a celebration of genuine, original Americana sounds that you can participate in and vote for your favorite artists in honkytonk, rockabilly and other styles.

In between requests – a pretty thundering version of the cheating song Exit 109, the scampering cry-in-your-beer anthem Fox on the Run and others – Watson mixed up the hits with new material from a forthcoming album, which he’ll be touring with Rev. Horton Heat next year. The biggest crowd-pleaser was I Lie When I Drink – the best track on Watson’s 2013 album El Rancho Azul – inspired by a comment from a heckler responding to one of Watson’s shout-outs to Lone Star Beer.

Much as Watson’s songs can be buffoonish, he’s actually a very sophisticated, nuanced singer, pulling on and off the mic with the subtlety of a jazz singer – which, when you think about it, Watson actually is, since he plays western swing. And much as that souful baritone is what he’s best known for, he’s also an excellent guitarist, flatpicking through a Gentle on My Mind soundalike with a nonchalant expertise. He traded riffs animated with Pawlak, and gave the rhythm section plenty of space to flex their chops as well.

The rest of the set was an eclectic mix of styles: the western swing shuffle South of Round Rock; a handful of hypercaffeinated Jerry Reed-style numbers from Watson’s latest album The Truckin’ Sessions Trilogy; an “obligatory” Merle cover, Silver Wings, and an unexpectedly moody new ballad before the final boisterous outro. It made sense in a city whose default music is, as Watson calls it, Ameripolitan. Who would have thought that ever would have happened, twenty years ago?