Micky & the Motorcars, Eleven Hundred Springs, The Flatcar Rattlers, Mike Runnels, and the Redneck Boys
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., April 9, 2010
Local country releases have been cropping up recently like this year's bounty of bluebonnets by the roadside, and not a thundercloud in sight. No question that Micky & the Motorcars know their audience: the 2-CD/1-DVD Live at Billy Bob's Texas captures their fine, dance-floor Americana balanced by good taste in covers (Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns & Money"). Somewhere along that well-trod country-rock highway is Eleven Hundred Springs' This Crazy Life. That's just the CD and a song title, because this brand of crowd-pleasing country packs dance-floor rhythms for the blue-collar crowd ("Great American Trainwreck") that dreamed of something a little better. The Flatcar Rattlers know their end of the road well, having turned somewhere near the intersection of the Gourds and Bad Livers. The band's latest, Which Side Are You On?, boasts killer artwork and unadorned love for punk-inspired bluegrass in 14 tracks ("The Day Ol' Avery Died," "Cannon Fodder"). That CD positions itself nicely with Mike Runnels' pure country on The Tender Years (Lucky Penny), tender-hearted two-step anthems with the occasional border flavor ("Just Say So Baby") from a veteran of Austin's original punk scene, plus stalwarts that include Herb Steiner on steel. The homemade look of Long Hard Road and the unvarnished sound of the Redneck Boys make this record seem like a lost cosmic cowboy gem, complete with Stonesy nods ("The Sheets") and no-frills vocals "stone country as a country mile." They drawl with the authenticity of front-line veterans. Reviewed in these pages during South by Southwest, it bears repeating that with It's About Dam Time, Marshall Ford Swing Band demonstrates the two things almost guaranteed to keep it afloat in a muddy sea of country: Emily Gimble and Emily Gimble. The members' unabashed love for pure string swing and its jazzy twang is all the right stuff, but Gimble's charming vocals and honky-tonk piano are as sublime as the sunsets of Texas in the spring.