Monday, December 16, 2013

Album Review: New Old Story by Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

New Old Story by Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash is a story you don't want to miss. As the title implies it's a beautiful melding of old school Country (with lots of Bakersfield tendencies) and modern Americana arrangements. The brainchild of lead singer and songwriter Mark Stuart, The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash may be a bit of a misnomer as Mark's voice sounds more like Merle Haggard than the man in black, and also because these guys are definitely legitimate.

The set kicks off with the rollicking road song, "Highway Bound." With melodic guitar and touches of steel, they sing, "It's a beautiful sound where the road meets the rubber, the wheels turn round. Don't try to stop me, I can't slow down. I'm a wild one baby, I'm highway bound." Like a cross between early Steve Earle and Dwight Yokam the song is an open invitation to jump onboard for a roadtrip through some beautiful Americana musical landscape.

The other uptempo numbers on this album: "No Honky Tonks," "Leave a Light On," "Into the Blue," and the title song, "New Old Story," make you feel like you just walked into the coolest roadside honky tonk on Route 66. "No Honky Tonks" especially captures the spirit of a Texas ice house on a Saturday night so well you can almost picture ol' Hag sitting in with the band.

And when Mark and the Bastard Sons turn their talents to ballads the effect is just as authentic. Mark's leathery voice is perfectly suited for crying the blues to the strains of some well placed fiddle and slide guitar. "Well Worn Heart," is a great example. Mark sings, "I've got a well worn heart and a restless soul. I gave my life to the open road. But there's still a few good miles on this well worn heart." And if his heart is well worn, his voice is equally well honed to moan the blues.

Other highlights are the anthemic, "Poor Man's Son," and the flamenco flavored "El Troubador." The mood and tone of these two songs help add an extra layer of texture to an already masterful collection of tunes. With so many versions of the same old story on the radio these days, it's refreshing to come across a New Old Story. Thanks to The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, this is one story I'll be listening to over and over again.

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