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Tag: girls guns and glory review

Girls Guns and Glory Bravely Tackle a Bunch of Hank Williams Classics

Why on earth would you want to do a whole album of Hank Williams covers? What could you possibly add to those iconic songs that could be better than the originals? OK, maybe you could completely reinvent them like Bryin Dall and Derek Rush did on their absolutely chilling Deconstructing Hank, transposing everything into a minor key and adding a layer of sepulchral atmospherics on top.

Or you could rip the hell out of them like George Thorogood did back when he was actually good. Girls Guns and Glory bravely tackle the challenge of amping up the songs while hanging onto a retro sensibility on their new album of Hank covers, most of which is streaming online. And it’s a rousing and improbable success. The Boston band recorded it on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at hometown venue the Lizard Lounge in tribute to the last two shows he never got to play (he died in the back of that white Cadillac on January 1, 1953). The four-piece group – frontman Ward Hayden on guitar, Chris Hersch on lead guitar and banjo, Paul Dilley on bass and piano and Josh Kiggans on drums – are currently on East Coast tour, and would almost assuredly be making at stop at Rodeo Bar if it was still open. This time around they’ll be at the big room at the Rockwood on Feb 26 at 8 PM – kind of sad to see how the Rodeo scene has been dispersed, hasn’t it?

Most of the songs are pretty obvious choices, and they’re more bittersweet than sad. Hersch is the star of the show here: he spices Moanin’ the Blues with a nimble Chuck Berry-style solo as Hayden alternates between a high lonesome wail and a more exuberant bar-band delivery. Likewise, Hersch’s keening slide work soars over fiddler Jason Anick’s spare, oldschool lines on Hey Good Lookin. And an unexpected rampage down the fretboard steals the show from Miss Tess and Della Mae‘s Celia Woodsmith, who add exuberant harmonies on an otherwise straight-ahead take of Move It on Over. They do the same a bit later, on My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It.

The two Americana songstresses also lend their voices to a steady, wistful take of Your Cheatin’ Heart, then the band gives So Lonesome I Could Cry an almost stalking, swaying, suspenseful groove. Honkytonk Blues is yet another showcase for Hersch’s uncanny ability to impersonate a pedal steel.

Rockin’ Chair Money is an unexpected choice, and a good one: the hypnotic, jangly, resonant sway absolutely nails Hank’s understated desperation. Anick’s wild spiraling on I Saw the Light is arguably the album’s most exhilarating moment. There’s also a more-or-less obligatory version of Jambalaya; a liquored-up take of Dear John where everybody gamely takes a turn on vocals despite there being no mic in back with the drums; and a stark, vividly elegaic bonus version of Old Log Train with Lake Street Dive’s Mike Calabrese on bass.

Girls Guns and Glory – Don’t Let the Name Fool You

Don’t let the fratty name scare you away: Boston band Girls Guns and Glory have a lot of good things going on, if you like your powerpop with a country twang. Their album Sweet Nothings came out early last fall – it’s driving music with country-flavored vocals and tunes that evoke both C&W and Cheap Trick. Ballsier than Deer Tick and the Mumford clan, infinitely smarter than the Drive By Truckers, the album has fat, big-room production values – even the handclaps have a ton of reverb on them. This band is all about the tunes: sometimes the lyrics are surprisingly and memorably thoughtful, other times they’re pretty meh.

The opening track, Baby’s Got a Dream, sets the stage for the rest of the album, a big anthem with lusciously liquid organ and watery chorus-box guitar. And a wistful/bitter lyric:

She loves me not
Pick up the petals and watch them drop
Pick them back up, needle and thread
All stitched up, play the game again

The album’s title track is a shuffing boogie tune, followed by the beefed-up rockabilly song Nighttime (as in “nighttime is a hard place to be, that’s where the demons find me”). After that, there’s the slow ballad Last Night I Dreamed (nighttime is a recurrent theme here) with warm washes of steel guitar, then the snarling powerpop song Mary Anne with its artfully kick-ass layers of electric and acoustic guitars. As a kiss-off song, it doesn’t waste time getting to the point, and it’s the album’s strongest track.

Root Cellar sounds kind of like Creedence doing Hank Williams – but with vocals that are actually understandable. 1000 Times evokes the BoDeans, as does the bitter backbeat rock tune This Old House. Snake Skin Belt brings back the rocking Hank Williams vibe, with a cool, Brian Setzer-ish guitar solo, while Not a Girl Left in the World is wickedly catchy, purist highway rock that strongly reminds of the Del Lords (who have a long, long-awaited new album in the works). Some people will call this stuff bar-band music – and the band name won’t discourage anybody from making that assumption. But this is a style of music where everybody sounds a little (or a lot) like someone else – that’s why, when it’s good, like with this band, it’s a lot of fun. Fans of loud, energetic acts who bring a rock influence into country, or vice versa – the BoDeans, the Newton Gang, the late, lamented Hangdogs – should check them out.