Ter­rell’s Tune-Up

This al­bum is, hands down, the most im­pres­sive coun­try rock de­but I’ve heard in years. Ban­di­tos play a crazy brew of rootsy, rocksy sounds.

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Steve Ter­rell on the new self-ti­tled al­bum by Ban­di­tos

SOUTH­ERN-FRIED FUN

Ban­di­tos are a big, hairy, Alabama-bred, Nashville-re­lo­cated sex­tet that I’d never heard of un­til a few months ago. Ex­cept for singer Mary Beth Richard­son, the band looks like the wild-eyed sons, or maybe grand­sons, of Lynyrd Skynyrd. (But please note, that’s an Amer­i­can flag on the group’s al­bum cover, not a Con­fed­er­ate flag, which Skynyrd and other old South­ern rock bands liked to drape them­selves in.)

But even though Ban­di­tos re­sem­ble count­less other South­ern rock groups that came be­fore them, their self-ti­tled al­bum is, hands down, the most im­pres­sive coun­try rock de­but I’ve heard in years. They play a crazy brew of rootsy, rocksy sounds. You’ll hear strands of ZZ Top, Ja­nis Jo­plin, Chuck Berry, Hank Wil­liams, blue­grass, jug-band, honky-tonk, rock­a­billy, and Stax-style soul.

In spite of the fact that Ban­di­tos boast three lead singers — Richard­son, gui­tarist Corey Par­sons, and banjo man Stephen Pierce — you won’t hear those generic, cheesy, pretty-boy, Ea­gles-style peace­ful, easy har­monies that scar so much of the alt-coun­try, “Amer­i­cana” (I still hate that term) coun­try-rock uni­verse. No, this is a rau­cous road­house crew that sounds like it’s more in­ter­ested in rolling you for beer money than gen­tly woo­ing your ears.

In in­ter­views, Par­sons has named sev­eral punk and garage groups as in­flu­ences — The Stooges, The Cramps, The Min­ute­men, Black Flag, and The Son­ics, among oth­ers. That in­ten­sity def­i­nitely is part of the mix. But in another in­ter­view, the group praised Randy Travis. Ac­tu­ally, I don’t hear much of ei­ther Black Flag or Travis in Ban­di­tos, so it’s prob­a­bly bet­ter to just sit back and en­joy their mu­sic in­stead of get­ting hung up play­ing “name that in­flu­ence.”

On the al­bum, Ban­di­tos save their best for the first. That’s the loud, fran­tic boo­gie called “The Breeze,” which is re­port­edly a trib­ute to the band’s late, great 1993 Ford Econo­line van, which saw them through their early tours. Another in­stant fa­vorite is “Long Gone, Any­way,” which ac­tu­ally has crazy ka­zoo so­los, prom­i­nent banjo and saloon-style pi­ano, and a melody sim­i­lar to Mis­sis­sippi John Hurt’s “Candy Man.”

The group comes clos­est to coun­try mu­sic on the twangy “Blue Mosey #2,” which owes a melodic debt to “Lost High­way,” and the fast-paced honky-tonker, “Waitin’,” sung by Richard­son. But Richard­son’s big mo­ments on this record are a cou­ple of show­stop­pers called “No Good” and “Old Ways,” both soul bal­lads into which she pours her heart. Richard­son doesn’t ac­tu­ally sound much like Ja­nis Jo­plin, but she has a throaty war­ble and a slow-burn at­tack. She has a way of mes­mer­iz­ing a lis­tener, so you barely no­tice when her sweet coo soars into a shout.

I’m im­pressed, and I want to hear more of these Ban­di­tos. Check out this band and this al­bum at www.blood­shotrecords.com/artist/Ban­di­tos.

Also rec­om­mended:

▼ Hey Y’all, It’s The Beau­monts by The Beau­monts. When I first played the first song on this CD, I al­most thought Saus­tex Records put the wrong disc into the case. It wasn’t the mu­sic. The Texas Tor­nado-fla­vored “San An­to­nio” sounded pretty much like The Beau­monts with a Mex­i­can ac­cor­dion. But there was some­thing un­set­tling about the lyrics. There was no pro­fan­ity! No raunchy sex, no blas­phemy, no men­tion of spe­cific body parts and, with the ex­cep­tion of a quick men­tion of “cheap weed,” no men­tion of drugs!

This couldn’t be The Beau­monts I know and love.

But be­fore I could eject the disc to check the la­bel, the very next song, “If You Take Drugs (You’re Gonna Die),” showed the band back in its inspired low­brow splen­dor. The song is a blue­grassy (nice man­dolin!) stomp that warns “You’ll sell your soul” (and a cer­tain part of your anatomy) “if you take drugs.”

De­spite the false start, singer Troy Wayne Delco and the band have crammed in way more of their quota of drinkin’, drug­gin’, and deprav­ity into this record. There is a song called “Lub­bock in the Spring­time” about the group’s home­town. Some­how they don’t seem as en­am­ored of Lub­bock as they are of San An­to­nio. Af­ter a line about the un­pleas­ant aroma of the place, Delco sings, “I lost my pickup at the feed­lot/Af­ter drinkin’ nine shots of ap­ple schnapps.”

“Change My Name” is a glee­ful stab at “bro-coun­try,” those Nashville hacks who quit their mod­el­ing jobs, wear their base­ball caps back­ward, and try to pass them­selves off as out­laws. “I’m Sorry” is a lengthy apol­ogy for all the places where the singer has puked, while “Baby, Tonight!” is about an­tic­i­pat­ing a heavy date in which Delco hopes to im­press a woman with “din­ner at my mama’s” and show­ing her his porno col­lec­tion.

But if the lyrics veer to­ward the sopho­moric, the truly amaz­ing thing about The Beau­monts is what a tight band they are. “Hol­ly­wood” Steve Ve­gas is an ace coun­try gui­tarist, while steel gui­tarist Chip North­cutt, who un­doubt­edly prays at least three times a day to the late Ralph Moody, is the group’s se­cret weapon.

In ad­di­tion to this al­bum, a few weeks ago, Saus­tex re-re­leased the group’s first al­bum, Get Ready for The

Beau­monts. The bio sheet for the al­bum says, “The la­bel has spared no ex­pense in care­fully restor­ing the master tapes which were res­cued from a ‘Bon­fire of Filth’ spon­sored by the Cen­tral Lub­bock Bap­tist Church.” Learn more at www.the­beau­montstx.com.

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