Slick 57

Two discs in less than eight months -- you've got to respect the drive and ambition. And bless the boys for continuing to find inspiration in an echo; it takes guts to keep cranking out the ol' slap-and-tickle when rockabilly's been dead and buried since Dwight D. was in the White House. Who do these guys think they are -- Ronnie Dawson? Or maybe the Old 97's, whose "Timebomb" intro they rip off wholesale to kick off "Tx Stomp," the leadoff track on Drunk Life. At least it's a move in the right direction -- forward, that is. But still, fellas, Rhett Miller should have gotten a songwriting credit...or at least a mention in the thank-yous.

Actually, there's something rather charming about the 11 tracks on Drunk Life, a far better disc than its 1998 predecessor. This time around, Dave Mitchell (drums), John Pedigo (guitar, lead vocals), and Ward Richmond (bass) don't go for "authentic" by mixing the record down until it sounds like a pig in shit; the sloppiness is more organic, less the sound of three men playing thrift-store dress-up. Rockabilly ain't their shtick, it's their lifestyle. Meaning, they've expanded their peripheral vision long enough to remember all this started when country hopped in bed with the blues and had themselves a bastard kid or two.

Hence, "Tx Stomp" burns down the honky-tonk, and the Slickers were smart enough to ask ex-Spot fiddler Reggie Rueffer to bring the matches and lap steeler Dan Phillips to douse the flames with lighter fluid. As for the rest, well, you've heard it all before -- the pop-pop-pop of the stand-up bass, the guitar riffs Carl Perkins buried in his back yard, the rickety diddle of a lone snare. And Pedigo throughout does his best to keep up with the whole shebang, hootin' and hollerin' about some chick who wasted all his time and the rest of the gals who won't sleep with him, poor fella. Not to worry, though, since Pedigo and the band spend the rest of the disc getting drunk at Adair's, cruising Lovers Lane for some betties, throwing back some Thunderbird for a little extra pep, and spending six days and five nights trying to get over the one who got away -- the subject matter of all the great rock and roll.

"The Bird," "Fine Lookin' Girl," "Drunk Life," "Farm Boy Blues" -- dude, this ain't Robyn Hitchcock we're talking about, thank God. But lest you think this is the stuff of apology (Hey, not bad for guys without an original thought in their empty heads), consider that perhaps the true revolutionary is the one who crafts art from a culture's refuse. Fact is, this record's a kick from start to finish, the sound of men taking seriously the inside joke that 40 years of "progress" have gotten us nowhere. Sometimes, you're better with an album of sincerely blown notes and toilet-bowl anthems than anything else "brand-new."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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