Clever, wry and often annoying country-indie-folk-pop from Austin, Texas – like Barenaked Ladies gone bluegrass.
In an unexpected and unlikely collaboration, bluegrass artist Sol Chase and former hip-hop artist/storyteller Jared Huskey have joined forces and made their debut album, ‘Out of Gas in Oil Country’, which is attributed to The Armadillo Paradox. Musically, the duo, who are from Austin, Texas, have opted for bluegrass and indie-folk-pop rather than hip-hop, but Huskey says he sees common themes in hip-hop and country, such as hardship, evading the law, and unsatisfying love. And, on that note, first song, ‘Your Eyes Are Like Stars’ is a fiddle-fuelled, sardonic put-down to an ex: “Your eyes are like stars – they’re best when they’re far, far away. Getting duller by the hour and I don’t have to see ‘em all day.”
‘Austin’ is a wry dig at all the hipsters and tech types who’ve moved to the city: “They all heard that the scene was good /And wanted to come and see / So they signed some leases for apartments/ Right over where the scene used to be.”
Outlaw Tex-Mex country song, ‘Can’t Hold A Job, has some great Mariachi horns and was written about post-grad blues and running out of money: “I can’t hold a job and I can’t hold you…” You could say it’s Cash in hand – a witticism which wouldn’t be out of place on the album, to be fair. In fact, ‘Out of Gas in Oil Country’ is full of clever and catchy songs, but sometimes it’s slightly too clever for its own good – like those irritating Canadian popsters Barenaked Ladies or kooky US folk-rockers The Mountain Goats. Funnily enough, the album was produced by sound engineer, Charles Godfrey, who has worked with The Mountain Goats, as well as Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ruston Kelly.
The ballad ‘Bethany’, which is an uncynical and sweet love song, actually provides a welcome break from some of the irksome and upbeat country-pop, social commentary and satirical swipes, as does the darker and edgier alt-rock of ‘Reincarnated Werewolf Astronaut’, and the final song ‘July’, which is an honest and affecting, piano-led tale of love gone wrong.
The duo’s name comes from Texas’s thing for armadillos. Says Huskey: “They’re kind of glorified here. Supposedly, their shells represent our state’s strength. But nine times out of ten, you see them dead on the side of the road.”
Ironically, The Armadillo Paradox are much more appealing when they’re not trying too hard, but are demonstrating their more vulnerable side – showing us a chink in their armour. How’s that for a paradox?