It’s a strange one, this. Twangy guitar instrumentals from a Nashville duo (backed by all sorts of other folks). There’s something very stylised here, a fusion of cool, lounge and retro themes, aligned, of course, to steel guitar. The lap steel features big and is put to different effect than the weeping it often does in Nashville on Country songs.
I was very keen to hear this, thanks to the single, Marfa Lights with its motorik beat, hoping it was all a steel / Krautrock fusion. After all, the track boasts a beat worthy of Kraftwerk, floating synths and a repeated, simple guitar figure, as blessed a sound as Fugiya and Miyaki. Not only that, but I liked the title – Marfa is a strange Texas town that hires in artists in residence who frequently mock its residents but persists in bringing it on, from acerbic poets like Peter Reading to installation artists who plant fake and ghostly high fashion shops on the outskirts.
I quickly discovered the band were on a mission to travel across as many styles as they could and the dreamed of Neu!-Grand Ol’ Opry album was not to be. The Landlocked Surfer does however have a great, you guessed it, surfing theme and insistent piano hammering, harking back to early rock and roll, before switching to twangy guitar solos. There are times like that and the next track, China Plate, that bring to mind a Shadows for the hipster generation or perhaps a Booker T and the MGs. Given that the band are given to playing Apache at gigs, let’s stick with the former. Tears Of Isabella brings to mind an MOR arrangement of old Marty Robbins songs like El Paso. Caught In A Pickle sits between Booker T and Southern Rock. Ladybird swaggers on bluesy legs and telecaster licks. We close on a consciously Beatles flavoured piece, Greenwich Mean Time, accompanied by sawing strings ala The White Album, after a brief but wide-ranging excursion over the territory a steel guitar and telecaster can travel.
It seems like the duo have had a lot of fun poking into every genre they can find and offering pleasure to the geek who’ll enjoy hearing all the genre references. It would be nice to hear this band focus down on some of their favourite styles.