Show of hands: how many out there remember when Nic Roulette and the Blue Moon Boys used to tear up Fort Wayne stages on a regular basis?Â Okay, you can put your hands down. I wonâ€™t ask how many are still suffering severe rockabilly withdrawals with the accompanying symptoms of itching, hallucinations and spontaneous cranial secretions of Dippity Do.Â
The good news is that Nicâ€™s new band, Hillbilly Casino, have just released their second album in the form of Three Step Windup, and what an album it is! Guitarist Ronnie Crutcher must wear asbestos gloves to create such incendiary licks, matched only by Andrew Dicksonâ€™s dead-on punchy drums and Geogg Fireboughâ€™s in-pocket bass, all captured to absolute perfection by Dickson. The albumâ€™s artwork captures the contents of an album: passionate songs that donâ€™t take themselves too seriously but with enough energy to take out a bull.Â
Right from the start the boys seem intent on taking your head off, smashing a quick home run with â€œDonâ€™t Stick Around,â€ a playful rockabilly tune featuring the lyrics â€œDonâ€™t stick around, baby / When I fall out of love with you.â€ Ouch. Two other tracks wallow in this genre, those being â€œLittle Black Book,â€ a rollicking tune that nods its greased head to The Beatles, and â€œShoe Leather,â€ a lively live track that serves as a calling card of this bandâ€™s stage prowess.Â
But Hillbilly Casino are more than a one-trick pony, having the outstanding ability to go from fastest to, um, fastester on tracks like â€œOne Cup Beyondâ€ and â€œIron Fistâ€ which is so lickity-split that itâ€™s almost punk (with a few countrified guitar licks). The Kinks get summoned in the gritty and upbeat â€œBroke Down,â€ tossing in seriously massive guitar tones and inspired drumming, knocking your ears clean offâ€™n your head. More heavy riffs are on hand in â€œIâ€™d Rather Be Lonelyâ€ and â€œStop Drop and Roll,â€ which, I might add, is simply explosive â€¦ if this song doesnâ€™t get you up on your feet and dancing like a maniac then you are probably Amish.Â â€œThe Holeâ€ is so heavy that even the vocals get distorted, forming a new sound along the lines of ZZ Top with a wanky guitar riff and a rockabilly rhythm section. Pure gold.
The band can also tone it down a bit, though not for long. â€œWhiskeyâ€ is a swinginâ€™ love song to corn squeezinâ€™s with an early 50s rock shuffle, appealing and simple, while â€œYouâ€™ll Have Meâ€ actually has a bit of crooning about it, like a cowboy song. â€œBig Danâ€ is a story song about a truck driver, appropriately somewhat countrified but with some intense bass tones, and â€œHave To Tell It Allâ€ is an upbeat song of unrequited love, filled with solid rhythms and a melodic lap steel solo.Â
The music of Hillbilly Casino is so hyper adrenaline-charged that they must single-handedly keep a plantation of coffee bean pickers employed 24/7. The songs on Three Step Windup are superbly written, and the band is tighter than a seized lug nut. So what are you waiting for?
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Marcus King Band
July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion