Three Step Windup
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? Okay, you can put your hands down. I won’t ask how many are still suffering severe rockabilly withdrawals with the accompanying symptoms of itching, hallucinations and spontaneous cranial secretions of Dippity Do.
The good news is that Nic’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 Dickson’s dead-on punchy drums and Geogg Firebough’s in-pocket bass, all captured to absolute perfection by Dickson. The album’s artwork captures the contents of an album: passionate songs that don’t take themselves too seriously but with enough energy to take out a bull.
Right from the start the boys seem intent on taking your head off, smashing a quick home run with “Don’t Stick Around,” a playful rockabilly tune featuring the lyrics “Don’t stick around, baby / When I fall out of love with you.” Ouch. Two other tracks wallow in this genre, those being “Little Black Book,” a rollicking tune that nods its greased head to The Beatles, and “Shoe Leather,” a lively live track that serves as a calling card of this band’s stage prowess.
But Hillbilly Casino are more than a one-trick pony, having the outstanding ability to go from fastest to, um, fastester on tracks like “One Cup Beyond” and “Iron Fist” which is so lickity-split that it’s almost punk (with a few countrified guitar licks). The Kinks get summoned in the gritty and upbeat “Broke Down,” tossing in seriously massive guitar tones and inspired drumming, knocking your ears clean off’n your head. More heavy riffs are on hand in “I’d Rather Be Lonely” and “Stop Drop and Roll,” which, I might add, is simply explosive … if this song doesn’t get you up on your feet and dancing like a maniac then you are probably Amish. “The Hole” 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. “Whiskey” is a swingin’ love song to corn squeezin’s with an early 50s rock shuffle, appealing and simple, while “You’ll Have Me” actually has a bit of crooning about it, like a cowboy song. “Big Dan” is a story song about a truck driver, appropriately somewhat countrified but with some intense bass tones, and “Have To Tell It All” is an upbeat song of unrequited love, filled with solid rhythms and a melodic lap steel solo.
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? (Jason Hoffman)
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