Honest D's honky-tonk style is guaranteed to delight listeners
By Chris Rietz | For the Lansing State Journal
"This album is covered by the Oklahoma City Guarantee," reads the back of the insert, "which states that should this product break into two pieces, you own them both."
It's this brand of farm-fed fatalism that titles the second album from Lansing's Honest D and the Steel Reserve - 13 songs of love's heartbreak and its attendant low points: the bottom of the glass and, of course, the barroom floor.
Derek "D" Smith and the boys are drawn to the directness and simplicity of pre-corporate country music, with songs tailored for the jukebox (only two of these songs run over three minutes), a lean band sound, an uncompromising, hard-voiced vocal style, and matching Western suits they wear even on the radio.
Yep, they're retro to their toes, but their sound is not a slavish attempt to re-create a period style, but rather to make the old musical values their own. Guitarist Jeremy Rapp - who wrote nine of the CD's songs - has winnowed out much of his rocker-in-overalls guitar proclivities, and his licks sound more like Billy Byrd with chops.
Converted bassist Danny Amori gets a lot of rhythmic mileage from what's little more than a "cocktail set" drum kit, and Joe Bakaitis has mastered the percussive "slap-bass" upright style in an alarmingly short time. Smith is a talented instrumentalist, and the CD's many sparkling twin-guitar harmony parts are his doing.
The Steel Reserve's honky-tonk style seems natural and comfy this time around, like a well-worn pair of shoes - enough so that they can stray outside the lines a bit. Note Smith's low-voiced Junior Brown-isms on "Couple of Shots," a more-than-passable Buck Owens on "Such a Loser," or the cocktail-lounge crooning of "Troubled Over You."
The crestfallen "Waltz to Waylon" is, incredibly, not a waltz (extra points for that). The spectre of Hank Williams occasionally steps aside for Carl Perkins on rockabilly tracks like "Rachel Please" or "Bottom of a Glass."
Chris Rietz works at Elderly Instruments in Lansing. His reviews appear every other week in What's On. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org