Those purveyors of fine heavy grass, those backwater renegades, and good old boys from the deep south (of the UK), otherwise known as The Outlaw Orchestra, are back with a new mini-album, and as the name suggests, it’s The Outlaw Orchestra unplugged, and stripped back. Stripping something back usually suggests losing the hi-gloss finish from the way that the songs were originally produced, but “hi-gloss” is not a description that anyone could level at the trio of Dave Roux (guitar/vocals), Pete Briley (pedal steel/banjo) and Ryan Smith (drums/percussion). Organic, earthy, natural, non-fussy, authentic, all adequate words to use; hi-gloss, polished, etc – nope.
Like Hayseed Dixie, The Outlaw Orchestra expertly manages to marry tongue-in-cheek lyrics with serious playing; ‘Chicken Fried Snake’ offering up the immortal lines…” It ain’t champagne on a Tuesday…Friday is fish and chips, it’s reptile without cutlery…I’m a Rhinestone Cowboy…in a nudey suit…”. After a few beers, you’ll be bellowing those lyrics back at the band once gigs resume. That ability to create instantly well-crafted, identifiable lyrics that offer up a break from reality is one of The Outlaw Orchestra’s strongest points, and their insane playing ability is another.
So, what does your £8.99 get you? Well, it gets you six tracks of The Outlaw Orchestra dialing it down and letting their country influences seep through. Book-ended by two short pieces of a radio broadcaster introducing the band (think Rebel Radio from GTA V but without the guns n’ shit), the main body of work features some favourites from the back catalogue turned down and reimagined. Beginning with the boot-stomping, hand-clapping ‘Rattlesnake Sour’ – complete with an Allman-esque lush slide guitar tone from Dave Roux – ‘Powercut’ is as welcoming as your favourite pair of cowboy boots and Wrangler jeans once the work suit comes off and it’s time to kick up some dust. ‘God Knows’ is a beautiful piece of music with the lush pedal steel sound from Pete Briley, and the authentic vocals from Roux (ably assisted by Trish Burke Manser on co-vocals) forming the heart of the song. The slowed-down version of ‘Chicken Fried Snake’ (lifted from debut album ‘Pantomime Villains’) is simply put, great fun, and features a stunning banjo-picking tone from Pete Briley.
‘Got it Made’ is arguably the strongest moment on the album. A simple tale of ordinary folk making do with the simple things in life as long as you have love; “…I’m jack, jack of all trades, master of none, and I made you love me and that’s a home-run…”. It’s a gorgeous track that features a subtle guitar performance from Roux that lives on for some time afterward. ‘Back to Georgia’ is a good old-fashioned hoedown, without the actual hoedown, and the pace is expertly controlled by the percussive work of Ryan Smith. Around the 2:00 minute mark, all three lock into a short groove-filled, mind-blowing jam, and after a brief second of silence, Dave Roux brings the band back in for some neat strumming action (saucy git). ‘Send Some Whiskey Home’ brings this mini-album to a fine end on a track where the stars align perfectly and the reappearance of Trish Burke Manser brings a warm, glowing sensation to the party.
Purchase directly from the band here, by all means, stream if necessary, but these good old-boys need help with new banjo strings, and that moonshine distillery ain’t going to run by itself.
Review – Dave
Band photo – Rockin’ Out With