A friend and I were talking the other day about the irony of punk music being 30+ years old. Although I can’t claim to have been a punk rocker back in the day, I did like the country influence that some LA bands were putting on it, notably X, under the nom de plume of cowpunk. For a few years a lot of musicians claimed cowpunk bona fides and then the better parts got integrated into many other genres, leaving a rage-filled husk over in the corner of the room. On their latest record, Kick Out the Twang, LA band Speedbuggy has taken that self-loathing loser, shaken it by the shoulders, and slapped it into shape.
Wood, Screws And Nails is a sub 3-minute blaster with a sweet lead guitar part that’s all Roy Nichols or Buck Owens. South Bound is a breakneck paced number about trains while Darlin’ I’m Comin’ Home is a trucker song. Country themes for sure, but hardly country songs. In a truly mind-bending cover, the boys put the twang on The Monkee’s Take the Last Train To Clarksville.
Speedbuggy USA is no one note act though. I might even argue the best songs on this album owe a lot more to Nashville than to LA. Shaky Town is a two-step danceable tune with band leader Timbo sounding a lot like Fred Eaglesmith, albeit with a trucking song instead of a train song. Long Gone features Timbo on mandolin and is pure bluegrass. The Devil With Me is a sad lament on the spiritual price of one’s weaknesses. Honky Tonk Singer is a tear-jerking ballad that accepts being “at the end of a trail.”
So much of country music has gone to the middle these days in a quest for broader acceptance. Kick Out the Twang is a splash of cold water in the face to that notion. In forty-two minutes it bangs out thirteen songs that will leave you breathless and excited to hit repeat on your player.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.