Where Did We Go Wrong
Barron Studios, Houston TX (2012)
by Andrew C Schlett
It must be tough to play in a southern rock band these days. First of all, southern rock has pretty much been done to death by now. The innovative sounds and twangs first crafted from the co-mingling of old-school negro blues and southern white-trash pride by people like the Swampers or Duane Allman back in the 1960s have already been polished and popularized beyond any of those founders’ earliest imaginings. Southern rock pretty much rose through the top-40 charts of the later 70’s as an alternative to the disco music or pop fluff like Captain and Tennille or Debbie Boone that prevailed at that time, and certainly after Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane went down in 1977, the public’s interest in chicken-fried hillbilly rock increased markedly. Bands like Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, .38 Special, The Outlaws, and even the Black Crows followed behind, with their long hair, pot leaf imagery, large six-or-seven piece ensembles, and over-sized Confederate flags in tow. Still to this day southern rock remains a staple on classic rock commercial FM radio, limited though those playlists may be by the innate mundanaity of that format. There can be little room for innovation or real improvement to such an established genre, which is another clear reason that the southern rock musician has, to borrow the down-home vernacular, a tough row to hoe. How do you tweak something that’s already been perfected to such a degree?
If you’re American Swindle, the answer is you don’t. Their five-song debut EP Where Did We Go Wrong sounds just as southern as biscuits and gravy on the breakfast table before heading out with Mom-n-nem to a Sunday morning Baptist hellfire tent revival. If Ronnie Van Zandt was still alive and heard this disc, it’s a fair bet that he would like it a lot. The only things that could possibly be missing are a bangin’ honky-tonk piano, a few hot-chick backup singers, and a big rebel flag on the front cover. There isn’t much of anything new being released here, at least not in terms of any sort of 21st century groundbreaking musical application, and rightly not so. American Swindle isn’t trying to re-invent southern rock, it’s just that they play it so damned well that this band, and the disc they put out, simply cannot go ignored or unnoticed. This is one hard-jukin’ barn-burner of a come-out disc right here, y’all.
From the opening notes of the first track, “Drifter”, one finds shades of Kenny Wayne Sheppard coming to the ear, and the hard-driving rock riffs interlaced with well-timed changes and stops that support the title track “Where Did We Go Wrong” are nothing less than the musical resurrection of Mr. Steve Gaines on guitar. American Swindle is a powerful three-piece out of Houston, Texas but their sound recalls that of the big-band travelling entourages of the mid 70s that came up out of the deep South, from the swamps of northern Florida, southern Georgia, and all of sweet home Alabama. Guitarist/singer Joey Kilcommins, bass player Michael Guidry, and drummer/singer Don Rosecrans play it large and rowdy, somehow capturing the essence of live performance on this studio-produced record, and one can only imagine what a wild bar band they would be to see over a few pitchers and some good friends on a Friday night. Truly, these are dirty southern white boys, in the kindest sense of the phrase. They call it ‘Texas Rock’ on their reverbnation page, but the music presented here doesn’t stop at the proud borders of our fine state. This disc has Dixie written all over it.
The third song, “X’s For Eyes”, is one of the better tracks of the five, which is saying something because every single number is solid. The pace never lets up even once throughout; the slick guitar work, the hard-thumping bass, and drums reminiscent of a rolling freight train carry you along into the also superb “Goodbye Angel”, a number so quintessential to the genre that you find yourself certain you’ve heard that song before, even though you know you haven’t. The disc ends with “Shine On”, which also could easily be slipped into any southern rock playlist virtually unnoticed; it’s so good that it stands beside the likes of Marshall Tucker or The Doobie Brothers with casual ease. Like I said, there’s nothing on this disc that ain’t been done before, but it’s been many years since it has been done so flawlessly or with this much raw passionate energy. American Swindle gets it dead-on right from the opening notes to the last fading cymbal crashes of their debut 5-song EP, and we at Rivethead recommend it highly.
You can find American Swindle on reverbnation, where all of these tracks can be heard. As well, they are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmericanSwindle and they have a pretty spiffy website at http://www.americanswindleband.com/ where you’re connected to photo galleries, tour dates, and videos of the band, and under the ‘store’ tab they have American Swindle key chains, coffee mugs, mouse pads, and T-shirts available not only for you and your significant other, but for y’alls dog too! Check ‘em out! You can be sure to see and hear more from this incredible band in the future
Because The Music Matters!!!