Friday, August 2, 2013

REVIEW: Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants - All Hat And No Cattle

The title of the new album by Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants - All Hat And No Cattle - is, of course, a self-deprecating use of an old saying ranchers would use to describe a small-time, big-talk rival: i.e., "all talk, no action". But Shifflett and his band, to stretch the metaphor, have plenty of cattle. They can really play this stuff.

As expected from a rock guitarist whose day job is with the Foo Fighters, Shiflett leads his band through some breakneck guitar workouts inspired by some of country's greatest guitar slingers - people like Don Rich. Here's the lead track, "Guitar Pickin' Man":

Here's a rollicking version of Del Reeves' signature honky-tonker, "Good Time Charlie's":

And the original track on here, "A Woman Like You" is fantastic, a guitar-based rave-up that simultaneously pays tribute to the Bakersfield sound of Owens and Haggard, and British-invasion guitar rock. The piano/guitar interplay over the last minute or so of "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" is just delightful, and reminds me of Southern rock favorites like Skynyrd's "Call Me The Breeze" or some of the Allmans' work on Brothers And Sisters.

But the revelation here is the true country nature of the proceedings... there is some great piano and pedal steel, and Shiflett's vocals have a nice twang to them on slower numbers like "Happy Part of Town" and "King of Fools", and on repeated listen, this stuff holds up very well in rotation with good modern traditionalist country music like Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart and Jim Lauderdale. Further, Shiflett's really dug into the canon to come up with some gems by true country music legends who aren't necessarily household names - folks like Wynn Stewart, Del Reeves and Jim Ed Brown ("Pop a Top"), as well as a fairly non-obvious Haggard tune, his first song "Skid Row". This and the way he varies the country influences and tempos shows that Shiflett isn't just fooling around with country music on this record - he's got it in his soul. He's onto something here, and I hope he'll keep it going.

All Hat And No Cattle is out now (July 30) on Side One Dummy Records.

Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants website

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