Ottoman Turks, the album, is a debut release that was 10 years in the making. The band’s back story is simultaneously typical and refreshing – four long-time friends who bonded over a love of music. That shared enthusiasm and exaltation resonates across the twelve tracks that were, no doubt, culled from a decade of songwriting.
If there is one word to describe Ottoman Turks, both band and album, it is boisterous. While one may be tempted to call them cowpunk, their attitude is decidedly on the punk end of the spectrum. Punk music played by guys who like to wear cowboy hats.
Album opener “Apathy” is a bristling rock song flavored by a feisty slide guitar, infused with the laissez-faire impertinence that the title suggests. It is followed by “Snake Song”, which rumbles with a fierce ZZ Top-style boogie and later by the sinister electric guitars and wash of feedback that propel “Red”.
“I Find Myself More Lonesome Every Day” is a sing-along Western trail-riding song, albeit one delivered in rowdy Ottoman Turks style. It segues into the explosive “OCP”, which finds the band proclaiming “I want to fight you”.
“Glass Bottles”, the most country song on the album, is a modern day drinking anthem with a classic sing-along chorus:
I said, all my friends are glass bottles
And they’ve all got famous names
I know it may sound absurd
Since they can’t say a word
But they’re all my best friends just the same
Ottoman Turks was certainly worth the 10 year wait but, fellas, please don’t make us wait another ten years for the next one, will ya?
Fort Worth singer-songwriter Vincent Neil Emerson has earned his country troubadour stripes the hard way – on the road. One can hear nearly every mile on the songs that make up Fried Chicken & Evil Women, his debut release.
Album opener “25 & Wastin’ Time” is like a song from a bygone era. Emerson’s drawl rubs up against chugging electric guitar, spacious pedal steel and the occasional honky-tonk piano. The song finds him lamenting the state of contemporary country music, and then offering up a few recommendations of artists that he feels maintain the country music tradition. “Johnny Fritz and Colter Wall, the only reason I keep my radio on, “he sings before adding, “Maybe a little bit of Justin Townes Earle on the side.”
Emerson is a classic country storyteller, a point he demonstrates on the title track and “Devil in My Bed,” in particular. The former finds the song’s protagonist struggling to adapt to family life after years of hard living. The latter references Jesus, the devil, whiskey, marijuana and a prostitute, all prime topics for a country song I suppose.
“Dade County Jail” plays like a long lost Willie Nelson song, right down to the acoustic guitar solo with the Trigger sound. “If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all,” Emerson reflects. And speaking of Nelson, “Willie Nelson’s Wall” is a tribute to the legend and what is arguably Nelson’s second favorite pastime.
Emerson gets jazzy, at least by country standards, on “Cactus Blossom Special” while “The Bad Side of Luck” is an ambling ballad that is ripe for country dance floors. He even injects some humor into “Letters on the Marquee”, his tale of life playing for drunk and indifferent crowds in honky-tonks:
He’s yelling, “Sing another David Allan Coe song!”
But I ain’t sang one yet
Well I’m loading out
My line is drawn
I’m headed home
Watch me get gone
Whether he’s being serious or humorous, Vincent Neil Emerson makes a clear statement with Fried Chicken and Evil Women: country music is alive and well in his hands.
Fort Worth’s Cut Throat Finches offer up a space odyssey of a musical kind. Their latest release is a wonderfully executed concept album about the first lunar landing, albeit with an alternate ending.
The mission begins with the euphoric “Ignition” before settling into the enthusiastic energy of “Stars” and “Take Off”. The mood, both musically and lyrically, changes as the isolation of space travel begins to take its toll on “Other Space”.
Things take a darker turn as the mission goes awry and it becomes apparent that the astronaut may be lost in space forever. The reality sets in on “Broken Man” and reaches its tragic conclusion on “Goodbye Letter”.
Sonically, In Event of Moon Disaster pulls equally from insistent American rock and brooding British rock, infused with the soaring choruses and layered electric guitar-driven arrangements that are a Finches hallmark.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to visit a sweaty R&B juke joint back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, all you need to do is close your eyes and crank up Goodnight & Good Luck the debut release from The 40 Acre Mule.
The album hits all the corners of these emergent decades of rock and R&B. It stretches from the angry blues/steady blues stomp of “You Better Run” to the dance floor boogie of “Bathroom Walls”, stopping along the way for the smoldering “Be With Me” and the straight up rock of “I’ll Be Around”.
As for the band itself, singer J. Isaiah Evans howls while sax player Chris Evetts wails. Guitarist John Pedigo plays a steady rhythm, at least until he lets loose with a fiery solo. The rhythm section of bassist Tim Cooper and drummer Robert Anderson unleash a furious beat that defies one to keep still.
Having seen the band perform live a couple times, I can tell you this: at the end of a show, both band and audience are generally a sweaty mess. And one can feel some of that sweat oozing from the studio recording as well.
The Singles Shop
Lots of artists have turned their focus from producing albums to sharing singles. Here are a few recent offerings from Dallas area artists.
Little Things, Remy Reilly
Remy Reilly has been on a creative tear this year. Back in July, she released the blistering “Burn”, backed by Dallas cowpunk outfit Vandoliers. She’s returning in October with a funky mix of pop and R&B, backed by Fort Worth soul outfit Kirk Thurmond and the Millennials.
Talk about defying genre labels – these two singles suggest that the young artist’s talent shows no boundaries. The common thread between them is Reilly’s gift for infectious pop hooks and a compelling musical assuredness.
“Little Things” is scheduled to be released tomorrow but Twangville is thrilled to premiere it for you today.
Bad Cliche of a Country Song, Brian Lambert
I’ve mostly seen Brian Lambert play solo acoustic, something he does every Monday night at Adairs Saloon, the Dallas institution that gave rise to Jack Ingram and Cody Jinks, among others. Lately, however, Lambert has been spending time in the studio cranking out some tasty rock and roll with a band that includes Philip Peeples (Old 97s). He’s been dripping them out periodically as singles, a tease – hopefully – for a forthcoming album.
This is a current favorite, a showcase for Lambert’s wry sense of humor and knack for catchy melodies.
Take Me As I Am, The Roomsounds
Flashback to 2016 – I was living in Boston and rocking out to a newly discovered (to me) Dallas band called The Roomsounds. There was some irony in that the title of their record – one of my top 10 faves from that year – was Elm St., which was the street on which I lived in Beantown. Pure coincidence?
Fast forward to 2019 – I’m now living in Dallas and am cranking the band’s new single, their first new recorded music since 2016. The band’s line-up has shifted a bit in the interceding years but their core sound remains gloriously the same. “Take Me As I Am” is a spirited blast of fist-pumping rock and roll.
Bonnie Lee, Texicana
It’s a rare treat to see a band’s very first gig. Sure, the members of Texicana have been kicking around the Dallas music scene for many years performing solo and in other groups. But, after meeting up for drinks at an East Dallas dive bar, they came together as Texicana.
Their sound, based on what I heard at their first gig and a few subsequent ones, pulls equally from Big Star pop and Tom Petty rock. Not a bad combination, indeed.
While their sole recorded output is a cover of the Tom Petty Mudcrutch composition “ Scare Easy”, they quietly released this live video of band original “Bonnie Lee”.
Time will tell the path down which Texicana will travel, but as the song in this video suggests, they’re off to a great start. And I’m looking forward to that day when tens of thousands of people claim to have been at their first gig… and know that I really was.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.