Monday, June 21, 2010

Album Review: Whiskeytown – Rural Free Delivery

This is a curious collection of songs. It was released in 1997 but the recordings date back to 1995, before their debut album Faithless Street. The band didn’t want this released as it’s a bit of a cash-in by an old record company but I for one am glad it came out as it showcases Ryan Adams and co at their most rocking.

The band kicks off with Take Your Guns To Town, a yeehawing rocking country fiddle and electric guitar combination which ticks all the right boxes, and they keep up this pace with Nervous Breakdown, a Black Flag song rendered as country.

They slow the pace down a little with the likes of Tennessee Square and the wonderfully titled Pawn Shop Ain’t No Place for a Wedding Ring, which still kick ass, slightly more slowly. The songs are mostly about sitting round being broke and drunk (“I got no money to spare so I sit here and watch from the porch, drinkin’ whiskey in granddaddy’s chair.”). In other words, classic country clichés, but wow they are delivered perfectly.

It’s not all good, some of the faster tracks are a little too fast for their own good, though special mention to Oklahoma (which Adams hates apparently!) which races along helter skelter at breakneck speed, guitars careering along and Adams’ vocals straining to keep up. This and final track Angels Are Messengers From God (retitled as Faithless Street) featured on their debut album in slightly more polished takes.

The charm of these tracks is that they are not polished, more rough and ready. Ryan Adams’ vocals are rough but in my opinion superior to his singing on his later albums.
I’m immensely partial to this more rocking country sound, summed up by a line mentioned on a previous post “so I started this damn country band cos punk rock was too hard to sing” (from Angels Are Messengers From God). Neither Whiskeytown nor Ryan Adams rocked like this again.