Four is the latest release from the americana tinged rock and roll outfit, The Memphis Radio Kings, from Seattle, Washington. They're comprised of Charlie Beck on vocals and guitars, Tim Jones on guitars and backup vocals, Tony Leamer on drums and percussion, and Jon Goff on bass, keys, piano, and organ. In recent years, the Memphis Radio Kings have been moving closer a more traditional rock and roll style while not foresaking their roots. While listening to Four, you're going to find teary eyed ballads, irresistable pop songs, rock and roll stompers, and everything in between.
Nowhere is this new direction more evident than in the opening track, "The Ghost." It starts with a big blues garage rock style riff in the intro part of the song, yet the verses and chorus still hold a little bit of that good ole twang. "Sudden Summer" is that irresistable pop song of the mix. The first time I heard this song, my first thought was to find a country road, roll down the windows, and turn up the car stereo. It's one of those songs that can trasport you away from a dreary day with each and every listen. In other songs where you might expect to hear a pedal steel or slide guitar, you may still hear it deep in the mix, but you'll also find whirling keys. A great example of this pairing is the ballad "I Want You to Fall." At its heart, this is a traditional beer soaked country ballad. What makes it special, is that dominating keyboard line that sounds like it came from out of this world. It shares space with Charlie Beck's broken heart vocals, organs, roots rock guitars, and a little slide. It's a mix that the Memphis Radio Kings pull of with spectacular results.
As I mentioned earlier, while the band has proclaimed a shift to a more mainstream rock sound, they haven't forgotten their alternative country past. "Last Lullaby" will still make you shed a tear in your Budweiser and there's also the rousing country rock number, "$2 Whiskey Pill." Even rockers like "Brand New Depression" and "Alabaster Carpet" bring enough of the roots along for the ride that they should please both the No Depression crowd as well as the rock kids.
The Memphis Radio Kings aren't the first band to put a little rock into their country. They certainly won't be the last one to do so, either. What sets them apart from their peers is the ability to shift seamlessly between genres from one song to the next as well as the ability to comfortably mix their roots straight into their rock. All of this makes for one thoroughly enjoyable listen.