Album Review- Johnny Outlaw and the Johnson Creek Stranglers "Honky Tonker"
Written by JahshieP on 22 September 2012. Posted in Articles - Music
Johnny Outlaw and the Johnson Creek Stranglers are country and they want you to know that. They came into the underground "roots" or "country" scene at a time when Punk Rockers and Metal Heads turned pickers are the dominant force. But as Johnny states in the opening tune, "I aint crossing over from no punk rock scene, I aint no hillbilly hippie, cause real country music is all I sing". These fellas are proud of there upbringing and back ground.
"Honky Tonker" is the bands second full length in as many years. They work hard, write hard, and tour hard. The debut album "Rise of the Strangler" was a solid release, but, I just couldn't quite figure out how much I liked it. At times, it showed that they were a new band, and at others, they sounded like a band that had been together for years. But, with the new release, these boys have matured as musicians and songwriters. I really enjoy "Honky Tonker"
The opening track "Nashville", is something I have been waiting for. A POSITIVE song about one of the greatest cities in the world. While most artists want to deny the beauty of Lower Broadway and tear the city to shreds to get the crowd excited, Johnny let's known his feelings about the historic town. He even name drops Layla's Bluegrass Inn, arguably the purest honky tonk on the strip.
After the opening track, we get a few classic drinking songs in "Straight Shooter", "Stone Cold Drunk", and "Hellraisin' Outlaw". For some reasons, if other artists were to write songs like these, they would come off as a bit cliche. But, after meeting and knowing these guys, they seem legit.
A stand out track for me is the title track "Honky Tonker". It could've have been written by one of country music's finest in the 1970's, so, it is nice to hear a song about the touring life done so well in 2012.
"Reno" is another touring song about a cancelled gig that led the band on a trip to find cocaine. It is catchy, and quite humorous. Maybe it is because the chorus mentions Denver, but this song reminds me a bit of Jr's "Od'd in Denver", with a spin of it's own.
With all the upbeat picking on this album, I was wondering when they might slow it down, and that came with "Lightnin Mcgee". A story song about a drifter losing at a hand of cards that begins with a slow tempo, but rips into an electric free for all for just a few seconds after the second verse, and than back into the story. Johnny comes in with some Charlie Daniels type talking vocals for the climax of the story. I wont give away the ending, but this is a pretty great song. I will admit the title threw me off, and I thought it would be a bit cheesy, but the band nailed it.
The band keeps the slower pace going for "Til My Dyin Day" and "Younger Days". The first is another stand out track about fishing and the Louisiana Swamp. The later takes a serious approach in the song writing department. Clocking in at just over six minutes, this is a great tune about a life gone wrong, including some lines about losing the respect of his child. Pretty heavy stuff in this one.
Overall, "Honky Tonker" is the real deal. An album from a no frills, no bullshit hillbilly band. The only thing I hope for, is that these guys find their crowd. They may be "too country" for some, and that is a shame, because, country is what we all love. I truly hope there is a market for these guys, cause they deserve it. I would love to see Johnny Outlaw and the Johnson Creek Stranglers in a rowdy honky tonk in the middle of nowhere playing for good ol' down home folks, because that is where they belong. This is the band you imagine performing at "Bob's Country Bunker", getting the crowd into a ruckus and raising some hell.
You guys all look for "real" Country, well you got it in Johnny Outlaw and the Johnson Creek Stranglers.
Focus Tracks: "Nashville" and "Younger Days"
You can purchase "Honky Tonker" and "The Rise of the Strangler" at Band Camp.
Tour dates can be found at Reverb Nation!