Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Album Review: Dig This by Southern Culture On The Skids

Southern Culture on the Skids defies easy classification. More rural than Country, more raucous than Rock, Southern Culture on the Skids (SCoTS for all you texters and tweeters) are quite simply one of a kind. Imagine Roger Miller singing lead for the B52s at a Surf Rock Festival and you might come close to describing the band. But why describe them, when you can just pick up a copy of Dig This and check out the real thing?

The album starts off with the band's trademark love of food and double entendres on full display in "Too Much Pork" ("I've got too much pork for just one fork, too much ham for just one jam...) Lead singer/guitarist, Rick Miller, lays down some great psycho-billy riffs, while rhythm section Mary Huff (bass) and Dave Hartman (drums) keep the song chooglin' along. Like most SCoTS songs, this one has lyrics that will put a smile on your face and music that will put a tap in your toe.

The next two numbers, "The Little Things" and "Ditch Diggin'" show off the band's "swampy" bluesy sound. "The Little Things" tells the sad tale of a jilted lover who drove away his love, not with boozing and running around, but with his fondness for raw onions and smoked oysters. "Ditch Diggin'" is an open invitation to get out your tool and work up a sweat (I warned you they like double entrendres!) Both songs simmer and cook with a deep Louisiana bayou flavor.

"My House Has Wheels" and "Chicken S**t Farmer" celebrate the side of Southern Culture that most folks in Nashville work so hard to avoid. Singing loud and proud, they boast, "My house has wheels, it rolls with me, from the lakes down to the sea.. It's got a fridge, it's got a stove. It cooks my eggs, keeps my beer cold (wherever I go my beer is cold.") Both songs as well as the "side two" cuts, "Put Your Teeth Up On The Windowsill" and "The Fly That Rode From Buffalo" showcase the band's ability to find the humor in simple living without mocking or condescending.

True to their name, Southern Culture On The Skids celebrates the side of the American South that doesn't make it to the pages of Southern Living magazine. And that's part of their charm. After all, who would you rather party with, Martha Stuart or a guy that makes his own moonshine and roasts a pig in his back yard? So if you're looking for some authentic deep fried, southern flavor, you'll definitely "Dig This!"

(For the record, Dig This is actually a 20th anniversary remake of their classic Ditch Diggin' (1993) album. Not just remastered, but re-recorded from scratch and updated to reflect the band's musical growth over years of touring and recording.)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Album Review: Nearly Nowhere by Jeremy Calley

Jeremy Calley is a preacher's son from "nearly nowhere" in Midland Texas. Like many preacher's kids, he rebelled against his father's rules. Unlike most of them, Jeremy tells his tales of excess and lessons learned through song. Nearly Nowhere is Jeremy's first release. Independent, in every sense of the word, Jeremy blazes his own trail on this self published title. Although not yet with a label, Jeremy shows a lot of polish and modern Country sensibilities. His voice is a breathier version of Luke Bryan or Keith Urban with just a touch of Casey Donahew attitude to prove he's from Texas.

The music sounds like it came straight from Music Row (with maybe a side trip to Austin.) With lots of catchy hooks and guitar riffs Jeremy seems to burst on the scene tailor made for CMT. His lead off song, "Barditch," is a perfect summary of his style. It's a little rowdy with a great sing-a-long chorus (Now I'm standing in a barditch, sun beatin' down. Two lane road to a one horse town. Sit around thinkin' 'bout all the fun I never had. Lookin' back, Luckenbach wasn't that bad."
"Come to Find Out" keeps the party going with another uptempo Country rocker with another memorable chorus. Like "Barditch," this song reveals another personal lesson learned the hard way: "come to find out maybe she was crazy, come to find out, should have seen it all along." "Thinkin' Bout You," "Whiskey or Beer," and "Kick Rocks" keep the pedal to the metal and keep the good times rolling along.

Jeremy takes a more introspective turn on the album's "second side." Beginning with "Songs About Love," Jeremy slows the pace a bit and digs a little deeper lyrically. Sounding like fellow alt-Country Texans Pat Green and Casey Donahew, he sings, "he misses his family and most of his friends, he let the whiskey cost him both in the end. He speaks of a river and a dying man's words. He stood up delivered and survived every verse of these songs about love and songs about pain." "She Ain't Lonely" and "Throwin' Smoke" continue the Southern Rock Ballad style songs about love and loss. Jeremy ends with his most personal, confessional song, "Break Me Down." After running on the wild side and learning love's hard lessons, he turns his attention inward and ponders, " have all the lines I hide behind all been self imposed?" Maybe sometimes it takes some hard living to realize some hard truths. But Jeremy seems to have found some answers both personally and musically. And with music this good, it won't be long before this boy from nearly nowhere ends up somewhere big!