Here is a musical slice of joy. The Western Express deliver a thumping beat to move to and a genuinely catchy honky tonk tune. Built upon a driving beat and thumping drums, jangling guitar and smooth sliding steel, ‘Honky Tonk Saints’ is immediately engaging and attention grabbing. There are enough changes in pace and layers to keep the listener absorbed throughout and returning for repeat listens.
Stephen Castillo of The Western Express says of the song: “This song is for the honky tonk heroes that have gone before us. When I first wrote it in 2018, I thought of people like Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, and Lefty Frizzell. When James White and James Hand died in 2020, I realised they were the ones I’d truly written the song for. It’s dedicated in their honour.” The honky tonk heroes who have inspired the band are very openly and consciously incorporated into the video. Visually, it’s as fun as it sounds, with well-shot footage of the band playing and revellers dancing the night away. Indeed, you find yourself wishing you were there soaking up the atmosphere in the bar.
This is the opening track from the band’s upcoming album ‘Lunatics, Lovers & Poets’, which is due for release on 5th August 2022. It’s the debut album from the Austin, Texas-based duo. Phill Brush and Stephen Castillo met via Craigslist a few years ago and a firm friendship formed around their love of country music. On the new record, their influences are clear and there are nods to the likes of Kitty Wells and Hank Williams and Country Music Hall of Fame members Dean Dillon and Willie Nelson. Indeed, the band are named after Willie’s 1950s radio show. Brush says of his bandmate and principal song-writer: “So many people seemed to think that if you play an acoustic guitar or use a mandolin, you’re immediately making country music. Stephen is actually country; he’s not faking it. He grew up on a dirt road in Appleby, Texas, singing in church, getting his heart broken, dealing with love and loss, and there’s something to that. If you can find me someone else who can write and sing songs from an authentic place like that, then I’ll play with them, but that person doesn’t exist as far as I’ve seen.”
Though they’re standing on the shoulders of those who have come before, The Western Express have clear talent and they can deliver quality music. Castillo sums it up: “I took the craft of writing these songs seriously but the songs themselves don’t take themselves very seriously.” That sounds about right for a band with a sound to make you dance and smile. Enjoy.