Sour Bridges “Down and Out”

Independent, 2024

Austin-based band offer familiar yet ferocious ‘browngrass’ on fifth album.

Album artwork for Sour Bridges' Down and OutThe press release for Austin-based Sour Bridges’ fifth album ‘Down and Out’ describes their music as ‘browngrass’ – a mixture of country, rock and bluegrass. This is an apt summary of the album’s sound, which draws from various americana-laced fonts and would be equally at home under the dingy lights of a dive bar or bathed in the sweet-sour scents of a barn. There is a touch of psychedelia at times, with echoing slide guitar and a malleable bed of organ. The songs tell tales of love, heartbreak and drinking (as well as the the trials of dry counties), are lightly seasoned with humour, but do tend toward the garden-variety side of things at times; however, this is an album where the lyrics are secondary to the overall feel and sound.

Album opener ‘Down and Out’ starts with pounding bass drum and a bluegrass riff played on banjo and guitar – the pulse and urgency sounds like if Jack White and Black Keys made a joint country album. The bobbing bassline keeps the energy high throughout the track, with a full arrangement including mandolin, fiddles and rich vocal harmonies. The next track, ‘Tighten Up’, released as a single, begins like a surf rock song before slide guitars lend a country edge; the backing vocals in pre-chorus are almost angelic, contrasting with the raucous atmosphere of the early section of the album, and the whirling organ gives the chorus a fairground feel. There are also subtle rockabilly and punk influences across the album, evident in tracks such as ‘Have You Seen My Baby?’ and ‘Drinkin’ All the Way Home’; although the former leans heavily into bluegrass, it has a high-energy, sing-, or shout-along heft.

‘Gonna Get High (Gonna Be Gone)’ has a nod-inducing, rhythmic strumming pattern, a bouncy bassline and guitars emanating from an imaginary place set somewhere halfway between Andromeda and Honalulu. The track tells the tale of a young country boy’s growing alienation in the city, his slip into adulthood and his substance-assisted and peripatetic efforts to escape.

A Pair of Arms’ and ‘Big Don’s Cabin’ evidence the band’s traditional country credentials; the former about drinking and longing for a past lover, the latter describing idyllic, rustic merrymaking and bonhomie in Wayne County, in brothers Bill (lead vocals, guitar, banjo) and Matt (lead guitar, mandolin, vocals) Pucci’s native Pennsylvania. ‘Big Don’s Cabin’ in particular sounds very familiar, one of those ubiquitous chord sequences which evokes images and memories that one can’t quite place.

Long-distance plea, ‘Texas Man’, has a reverb-laden sound, almost like it was recorded in a church; in this way it breaks the sonic mould of the album a little. The chirp of crickets breaks through at times, lending a lonely, riverine sheen. Deep, swelling piano bass notes swell and anchor the track, whilst a delicate melody played on the upper keys offers a counterpoint. Another exception to the rule is the steady lament ‘The County Line’ – an older man’s reminiscences spurred on by the revitalisation of his town’s long disused railroad tracks. Pizzicato strings evoke a ballroom dance atmosphere at times, whilst the Spanish style guitar solo and castanets offer a Tex-Mex flourish.

All in all, this is a solid offering from Sour Bridges, crystalising their ‘browngrass’ sound and often effectively capturing the energy of a live performance. There are a couple of points which hold the album back: although there is a mix of mellow and upbeat tracks, at times it feels like there is a lack of variety across the album, with the final few tracks making it seem a little overlong; this isn’t helped by the lyrics, which bar a few exceptions deal with heavily mined themes in a relatively standard manner. Still, no doubt these tracks will sound great performed live and will be sure to please existing fans, and gain the band some new ones along the way.


About Joe Graham 14 Articles
New Cross based fan of americana, country, folk and folk rock music. Besides that, I enjoy exploring the city on runs and walks, finding pubs and gig venues, playing guitar and watching some football every now and again.
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments