Don’t underestimate Hillbilly Casino’s ability to get under your skin. This rollicking rockabilly wrecking crew has been tearing up stages and causing CD players to spontaneously combust for half a decade now — and, if their latest long player, Tennessee Stomp, is any indication, they’re still winding up.
It’s a winning formula: move from Fort Wayne to Nashville (as frontman Nic Roulette did), round up a top-notch bunch of seasoned veterans and totally commit yourself to taking over any and every stage you set foot on. That all-in approach extends to the tunes on this disc, from the hard-charging “Debt with the Devil,” to the honky tonk/bluesy “Heartburn and Heartache” to the galloping epic, “Another Goodbye.”
Want a healthy portion of old-school punk plus plenty of crunchy guitar in your rockabilly diet? Crank up “Psycho” and move all breakables out of the way. If Hillbilly Casino were simply turbo-charging, pre-60s rock and rockabilly styles, they’d be plenty entertaining, but Tennessee Stomp shows off a band that’s not overly precious about one particular genre ... and not afraid to meld several together to get its point across. Witness the huge guitars paired with the “Devil Went Down to Georgia” pace on the title track, or the heavy metal country riffage that drives “Something’s Gettin’ Ready to Give.” On the other hand, traditionalists will enjoy the cheeky “80085” and “No One Else,” the closest the boys come to Stray Catsville. Both tunes definitely push the right buttons, and the expert playing only adds to the classic vibe.
But, being the Music City mavericks they are, Hillbilly Casino wisely shift gears often. “No Toll Taken,” for instance, takes a sincere, straightforward and decidedly non-retro approach; this tune has far more in common with Joe Strummer than with Brian Setzer. Taken as a whole, this well-recorded, action-packed disc has just the right blend of consistency, fun, aggression and variety – there’s nary a hint of Nashville Hit Machine influence whatsoever here. Tennessee Stomp is absolutely true to its title.
Catch Hillbilly Casino in the flesh when they hit town June 4 at Mookie’s Bar & Grill. (D.M. Jones)
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