Josh Abbott Band – She’s Like Texas
Pretty Damn Tough Records 2010
[tags: country rock, country pop, (folk), 2010]
Listen while reading:
She’s Like Texas (from She’s Like Texas)
Hot Water (from She’s Like Texas)
Sometimes strange things happen – a few weeks ago I heard of a man driving his car over a parking lot of a supermarket. He wanted to leave for the road and was only one turn away from reaching the gateway, but suddenly mistook brake and gas pedal – and so he floored it and badly crashed into the supermarket. He totally screwed his car and the market – and sadly died in the accident. Man, that’s no good story to start a review for a great album, but it illustrates that life offers no guarantee to nothing. Ok, back to business. The Josh Abbott Band doesn’t quite play the music you would expect to be featured here – but as in the story, sometimes you just can’t influence the way things will turn out. Two weeks ago I listened to the title track of She’s Like Texas and I was totally fascinated – I knew that the album must be great, even though I’m not so much into full band country pop/rock. And now with the full album playing in the hi-fi I have proof – it turns out that I was right: the album indeed is great.
It’s the second release from the Texas based quintet and it got quite some attention from many reviewers so far. But let’s start at the beginning – maybe with the band name. Josh Abbott Band is a homage to the Randy Rogers Band that changed the life of Josh Abbott in the first place and was responsible for his decision to start a own band – and then, in 2009, the debut record, Scapegoat, saw the light of day and had plenty of success. But resting on their laurels seemd to be the last thing the band wanted to do and so they got busy and recorded their second full length, She’s Like Texas, which was released about 3 weeks ago. Not bad but maybe not the best timing to release it, because the record dosen’t sound like a wintery one – it’s clearly made for hot summers, chilling and drinking some nice beers in the sun, or going on road trips and listening to She’s Like Texas while on the road to wherever.
I want to be honest: As I first listened to the whole album, I wasn’t quite sure if the music really was what I hoped it would be. Especially the relevant single All Of A Sudden made me insecure and I thought the whole album is going to be a bit too mainstream in sound and song structure. But this was just a first impression and I think there are two points that show that this isn’t a reason for not loving the album. Firstly: it is incredible how the Josh Abbott Band makes use of the fiddle. Without the fiddle I’m sure I wouldn’t have done the review, and not because the rest of the music is bad, but because the fiddle is an essential part of the characteristic sound. And that characteristic sound is just the combination of country rock/pop with a good portion of traditional, therefore folk music. I can’t describe it, but it works out extremely well.
Second reason why you’ll like the album despite it being a bit mainstream at some points: the whole conception of the album. And no, it’s no concept album. I mean the composition of the tracks to a functional and elaborate whole. Some tracks are more rock oriented (All Of A Sudden), others are simply cheerful (Road Trippin). Then there are more traditional songs like the overwhelming End Of A Dirt Road and songs that are ballads at their best, e.g. the superb Oh, Tonight or the piano driven Let My Tears Be Still.
You see, there is not much I have to criticize. And that’s what I expected as I first listened to the title track, but I said that already. If you ask yourself, if this is an album you want to get your hands on, consider that it is no folk as regularly featured here on CFM. It’s more rock/pop orientated, it’s harder than 95 percent of the music I normally write about – but for this it is nearly perfect, because it shows an enormous bandwidth of different styles the band is capable of playing. They really got the feeling to show emotions through a thick layer of sound. The lyrics of the tracks underline that and are mostly grounded in real stories – another point which adds authenticity to She’s Like Texas. But there is no light without shadow and so there is no perfect album.
If I could do the next record, there were two things I would be doing slightly different. Firstly I would shift the sound to a bit more traditional style, away from the mainstream towards more traditional country and roots music. The combination with the powerful rock/pop would guarantee, that the album stays fresh over a long period of time, for more complex and complicated tracks become good friends over the time, wherefore catchy and straightforward tracks, in the best case, become annoying relatives. But I don’t want you to get this wrong, the Josh Abbott Band is miles away from being boring or simple, I just think they focus a little too much on being radio compatible. But this is also always a personal conviction which goal music should aim for – the position of CFM hopefully is clear to all readers.
But I spoke of a second thing I would change, if I had the power to do so. And that’s a even more personal criteria that inevitable comes with listening to acoustic folk and singer-songwriter music all day long. I’m talking about the tempo of the tracks. I think it would be a good thing to slow things down a little bit more, brilliant tracks like the title track or the both mentioned Let My Tears Be Still and Oh, Tonight show that the strength of the band clearly lies in the slower tracks for they are the most emotional ones.
In the end the two points of criticism I named are mostly personal in nature and no real failures of the album. So I don’t want to overestimate my own opinion, my point of view should be clear though. She’s Like Texas is an album that I recommend to everyone who’s looking for some intelligent country rock/pop that combines modern elements with traditional ones to an album full of variety. It’s one of the rare examples of successfully merging the ability to be played on the radio and being sophisticated and believably emotional without fear of showing the roots the music comes from.
To buy your copy of She’s Like Texas, head over to the band’s personal website or buy the MP3s on iTunes, but also make sure to visit their MySpace too for further information. This album really surprised me – because I’m surprised that I like it.