The Damn Quails “Clouding Up Your City”

Honkytonk Laboratory 2022

New album from reunited ‘Okie’-folk band, built on live touring. 

Only the third album from The Damn Quails in over twenty years, but it benefits from the lessons learnt, and scars gathered, along the way.  The band’s first album ‘Down the Hatch’ (2011) received popular acclaim after its release but was followed by an implosion at the small record label that launched it, and a management struggle that led to years of legal wrangles.  During these, the band couldn’t claim ownership of their music or even their name.  Undaunted, they took to the road and toured relentlessly, building up a strong and faithful fanbase, who became known as ‘The Covey’.  Lawsuit concluded, their loyal fanbase provided crowd-funding for their second album ‘Out of the Birdcage’ (2015).  Again, it was popularly received, but by this stage the rigours of endless touring was having its toll on the band members’ lives and well-being.  In June 2016, they called an unexpected and immediate hiatus to the band’s activities and apart from some intermittent live appearances and tours since, that was pretty much it until this year when lead singer, Bryon White decided to get back in the studio with the band to capture some of the songs he had built up in a fresh burst of creative activity.

Starting off with a real stomping statement of intent, ‘Monsters’, this is an album packed with songs that will be enjoyed by live audiences, near and far.  Veering between country rock, ‘rootsy’ southern born-to-be-classics and soft ballads, the tracks follow a reflective but never too serious path through loves lost and found, time on the road, and personal struggles.  There is plenty here for both country and folk enthusiasts.  There is the expected twang of ‘Okie’ folk/country songs in tracks- ‘Clouding Up Your City’, ‘Mile By Mile’ and the ‘Punxsutawney Rambler’. Other tracks, and White’s gentle tenor, would be at home on any modern Irish or Scottish folk stage or album- ‘Harm’s Way’, ‘Golden Sands of Leyte’, ‘Peace In The Valley (King Of The Hill)’. He sings songs in a way that makes you want to listen to them.

The album was all recorded in four days, giving it a freshness honed from years of live touring.  John Calvin Abney’s production skills let White’s voice ride high in the mix above uncluttered catchy musical backgrounds.  Known for his own solo work, and as a friend and collaborator to fellow Oklahoma-based singer/songwriter John Moreland, Abney also plays piano/keyboard on many tracks to very good effect.  With its beautiful stripped-back instrumentation and harmonies, the final track, ‘Good Times?!’,  finds the singer reflecting back on a missed loved one, and shared good times that have passed.  A final parting example of the power of White’s gentle vocals.

Hopefully, their problems of the past are gone and the focus can now be on a band doing what they do very well indeed. This is an album of tracks born to be played live…with The Covey joyfully singing along at the tops of their voices, and going home very happy afterwards.

8/10
8/10

About Ian Kennedy 11 Articles
Live music, long walks, country pubs. What would life be worth without them?

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