Southern Culture on the Skids
Southern Culture on the Skids' Countrypolitan Favorites, their new album of all cover material, improves upon the C&W story-songs of my creepy, '70s youth. Rick and Mary strip away all the off-putting, Nashville gimmickry of the dawning synth-obsessed era... favoring tremolo and "schwang" over funky phase-shift and flange.
I have to say, they've actually improved upon their source material by boiling each song down to the musicality buried beneath. Thankfully, they left in the swagger that made that "Sheriff Lobo" era of country music fun and gritty. Southern Culture on the Skids capture the essence of the last throes of ornery country music before the countrypolitan fad smudged the music to a high polish smear.
-Colonel JD Wilkes of Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers
I was talking to Mark Robertson bassist from Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers, one night recently. He mentioned how great he thought that the band Southern Culture on the Skids were. I, of course, agreed. After all, my band, Reverend Horton Heat, has done many tours with them. I was always amazed how a band with such great and accomplished musician/singers were also able to go "low-brow" enough to put on one of the most entertaining live shows a band ever pulled off. It's funny how down to earth people like these are also great artists who blow the doors off of all those other bands who strut around like rock stars.
Anyway, I was over at the hot-rod shop (Jeff Milburn Racing) and one of the mechanics (it may have been Jeff) had on a work-shirt that had, embroidered over the pocket, "Southern Culture on the Skids."
Then, I was out on one of my rare nights out, when I ran into Matt "The Cat" Hillyer (the lead singer and guitarist from the great 1100 Springs). His hat said, "Southern Culture on the Skids."
Then I got this email from Yep Roc asking me to write about, you guessed it, Southern Culture on the Skids! All of these things in just a few days!
It all started making sense. The Rock-and-Roll Gods were speaking to me.
OK. Here's why they're great - (Southern Culture on the Skids not the Rock-and-Roll Gods). They write songs with funny and clever lyrics. Their cover song selection is always right. Their songs are not based on stummy-singy guitar drivel. Each song has a specific, strong, roots-authentic and tasty guitar part. Each song has spot-on vocals. Each song blows everyone else's band away musically, yet, is designed to entertain. They have a wonderful knowledge of the best stuff from the roots of rock, country, blues, surf, punk and wellall sorts of stuff pop up. Rick Miller's guitar sounds are perfect. He can change between tones and still get something perfectly authentic and listenable. Rick Miller's guitar playing is un-believable so he could probably get a hot sound out of a Stella through a bucket. His singing is spot on. Mary's is too. They do great harmonies. How many times can I use the word great? I'll keep trying.
Mary Huff is my favorite electric bassist of all time. It must be fun for Rick and Dave to have those cool sounding bass lines, right in the proverbial pocket. Oh yeah, Dave is one of the most tasteful roots-style drummers of all time. Let's count how many roots-style drummers are out there you won't need all of your digits to do that. Dave sings great too.
I suppose that I should describe this new album, Countrypolitan Favorites.
"Oh Lonesome Me" is a Don Gibson country-pop classic that they turn into rock-and-roll. Great song pick there. I sing this one with my side band, but, until now, I never thought of rockin' it up. "Muswell Hillbilly" claims, "They're never gonna kill my country pride." This song has some harmonies that are loose yet tight at the same time. Not many bands sing this well anymore. "Funnel Of Love" is a cool little blues/rhumba that features Mary on vocals. She sounds better than ever - soulful and right on pitch.
Ok. Ok. I can't describe every song. So, I'll just say a few more general things. When Mary sings the country classic "Rose Garden", it becomes clear to me that, if she wanted too, she could be a world- class country singer right there with Patsy, Tammy or Loretta [Listen to "Rose Garden"]. One interesting thing about this album is how, while proving to be formidable country stylists, they mix in sounds of early sixties garage punk. Who else in the world would have the idea to do this and pull it off? Answer no one else. Of course, they still mix up all kinds of styles and tones from all sorts of styles and eras. Check out the guitar solo on the blues classic "Te Ni Nee Ni Nu". Great.
This is now one of my favorite albums. How many times can I say great? I don't know, but, Southern Culture on the Skids is truly great, great, great!
The Rock-and-Roll Gods have spoken.
- Jim "Reverend Horton" Heath
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