Reflections on four decades of friendship.
These guys started out together in the early 80s, and have survived a myriad of ups and downs, professionally and personally, and this previously unreleased 15-track album serves as a kind of retrospective of two friends writing and making music across the decades. They’ve spent a lot of time together and apart over those years, but always managed to find time to pool their respective writing skills to create music that people wanted to hear.
Songs are from the traditional country end of the spectrum, with plenty of tales of honky tonk bars, wild, wild wimmin’ and so on, so a little unreconstructed, but then they have been created during the past four decades. Opener ‘Kinda Like Love’ has an almost 70s Texas country rock feel, or maybe hints of Brooks and Dunn, with the hook line, “It’s not a long way from the dancefloor/to the dark of the parking lot/It’s kind like love/But it’s not”. ‘Bite The Bullet’, another rocky number about turning a life around before it’s too late follows, before slowing the pace for the first of a number of ballads, ‘Baby’s Got The Blues’, which has an excellent vocal in an 80s styled track. Lead vocals are in fact shared between the two of them throughout, and although there is no doubt Allison has the voice, Spehar’s is far gruffier, which truly suits the tracks he leads on.
There are a number of songs which standout. ‘Just Relax’ has more than hints of Randy Newman, with horns and ‘sticks’ and a singing/spoken lyric, the catchy ‘Money’ has piles of twangy guitar with the view that of course money is no good….”all it ever did for me was make me do things I don’t wanna do”….and ‘The Good Life’ is another country ballad, all pedal steel and tinkly piano and knockout harmonies. There’s no doubting he’s a country boy on ‘Rockin’ On A Country Dancefloor’, (it’s what it says on the tin) with a cleverly intertwined Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ guitar hook, and toe-tapper ‘Bubba Billy Boom Boom and Me’ rockabillys along with boogie-woogie piano, organ and plenty of doo-wops.
‘Eye of the Needle’ is a little different, certainly not the traditional country found elsewhere through the album, with a dreamy vibe, in-the-distance slide guitar and significant echoes of Dr John. After tracks referencing American football (country funk, anyone, complete with wah-wah guitar?) and trains, the very pleasant closer ‘Here In The Pass’ sets the scene of a small harbour town, with sunsets and fishing, all drawn with accordion and pedal steel and lines such as….”This ain’t New York, this ain’t LA/but once you’re here you’re gonna stay”….well, you get the picture. The song references the Blue Bayou and you can almost hear that song play alongside.
This is an album which records a lifetime of working together and, as the press release reads, “it’s four decades of brotherhood.” It genuinely feels like a retrospective, the style changes over the years can be recognised and although it isn’t what might be typically acknowledged as americana, it has been all competently created and makes for a mostly agreeable listen.