An awful lot of material finds its way into my inbox on a fairly regular basis, and I truthfully don’t engage with a lot of it, either because nothing grabs me in the press kit, or because it’s wildly outside my area of interest (who knew Skrillex was still around?!?). Though a lot of what the Bloodshot Records roster has to offer doesn’t make it to the pages of Dying Scene (much to my chagrin), I’ve always been a fan of the vast majority of their lineup, so of course I fired up the new Vandoliers album, Forever. Even a cursory look at the album cover and tracklist while waiting for the album to load didn’t exactly instill the warmest of fuzzies that we weren’t in for another outlaw-country-punk-by-numbers offering; train tracks? Check. Songs about raising hell? Check (“Troublemaker”). Song about traveling? Check (“Miles And Miles”). Songs about being no good/down on one’s luck/drunk? Check (“Fallen Again,” “Bottom Dollar Boy,” “Nowhere Fast”). song about something that sounds like it’s a reference to a southern thing that a New Englander such as myself might not understand? Check (“Shoshone Rose”).
And so here, my friends, is a quick lesson in why you don’t judge a proverbial book by its cover or whatever. Forever is a damn fine album that further blurs whatever dividing lines are left between punk and Americana and outlaw country while injecting its own uniquely Texas flavor. As fate would have it, I fired up this album and Lenny Lashley’s newest album both for the first time on the same day, and couldn’t help but think that the Vandoliers might be where Lashley landed musically if he’d grown up in El Paso, TX, instead of the greater Boston area. The fiddle riff that kicks off album opener “Miles And Miles” instantly transports the listener to a place that maybe doesn’t exist on a map, and is maybe more of an idea than a tangible place. The double-time drums and feedback build up of “Troublemaker” evoke a modern, rambling Johnny Cash sound before the mariachi-style horns kick in and bring the song in a different direction. Where a band like Mariachi El Bronx will use the horns in a traditional style, songs like “Fallen Again” or “All On Black” find Vandoliers incorporating them in a way that adds extra, unique texture and depth to their cowpunk sound, sort of the way a band like Dropkick Murphys will incorporate bagpipes or Flogging Molly will weave accordion into a punk song without making them sound like traditional jigs and reels. The former of those tracks, “Fallen Again,” with its guttural, singalong chorus that imagines what might have been had Lucero been a little more Texas than Tennessee, has quickly become one of my favorite songs of the year.
So cast aside whatever you may have in the way of aspersions, my friends, and check out the new Vandoliers album, which is remarkably their third full-length in four years. I know it’s due out in February, but this album just begs to be played and sung along to at full-volume on the open summer roads. Forever is due out this Friday (February 22nd) on Bloodshot, and you can – and should – still pick it up here.
Rating: 4/5 stars