A warm and instantly inviting album that feels fresh without needing to be overly modern.
They say all good things take time, but with ‘Outlaws & Saints’, an album that took just three days to record, Woody Woodworth & The Piners would like to challenge the notion. With the band’s second LP however, the length of time it takes to record an album wasn’t the only rule they broke, but they also recorded in an increasingly rare way: to analogue instead of digital and onto good old fashioned tape.
As you might expect from an analogue record, there is not the polish that is always found in studio recordings, but here that is most definitely a good thing. The fuzziness of tape means there are no hard edges, but instead warmth and feeling that comes seeping effortlessly through. When Woodworth sings of his road weariness on ‘When the Dogwoods Bloom’, a song that’s a little bit Waylon Payne, a little bit Willie Nelson, and all outlaw country with an infectious beat, you feel it just as much as you hear it. “Well I’ve known my share of trouble / Seen a thousand miles / Been locked up and lonesome,” he bemoans. “So blue I could cry, and I’m ornery / Since the day that I was born / I’ll head out on that highway / When them dogwoods bloom.”
Indeed, if Outlaw Country is your thing, this album has it in spades, but it unsurprisingly shines the brightest on ‘Hard to Be an Outlaw’. “I said it’s hard to be an outlaw these days / They tell you to shut up and sing / They don’t like your look / (And) they don’t like your sound / And they sure as hell don’t like your rowdy ways,” Woodworth complains, seeing his kind as a dying breed. “And I ain’t sure that Waylon done it this way,” he later adds, his voice gruff and with an edge of bitterness.
With songs like ‘The Ballad of Danny and Bobby’, Woodworth tempers his outlaw spirit as he gives the old-fashioned story of the love found between Danny and Bobby and the music they played together a gentle country rock bent. “I’m sick of this god damn job / I want to spread my wings and fly / I want get out of this run down mill town / Before it takes my life,” Woodworth opens on ‘Quittin’ Kind’, gentle and acoustic in tone, but heartbreaking in the stark honesty of its words. “And it’s all I have not give up / And I’ve never been the quittin’ kind / So why should I start now?” he continues in spite of himself, voice cracking a little on the highest parts.
‘Don’t Forget’ is a sweet reminder not to forget who you are or where you come from, no matter where life may take you, and while ‘Long Hard Road’ similarly reminds not to take time and love for granted (“Tomorrow ain’t ever promised / Work hard and do the best you can / Don’t leave here spinning tires / Don’t burn bridges you can’t mend / And if your lucky son you’ll get forty years with someone you love”), the sentiment is echoed even further on ‘Saint on Sunday’, which finds Woodsworth “broke down and busted on the side of the road” but reflecting: “I know it ain’t much / But I’m proud of what I got / A good cup of coffee / And an honest women’s touch.”
With ‘Outlaws & Saints’, Woodworth and co. certainly proved that great things can be achieved in a short time span, even if they also showed there is truth in the maxim that everything old is new again, but when it comes to Americana, that’s one adage that’s better kept as a truth.