It’s worse than buses. You wait ages for a Young Turk who’s going to set Country Music to rights and then a host of them turn up. Today’s ride is courtesy of the fabulously named Sam Outlaw (and, yes, it is his name, or at least his late mother’s maiden name) and while he’s not Outlaw Country he fits in well with his peers who are kicking the current trend of Bro Country into the ditch.
As the title promises, Outlaw mines a Southern California lode that leads from Merle Haggard (RIP) to Dwight Yoakam and Dave Alvin with a slight detour into seventies country rock as parleyed by Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles; ‘SoCal Country, he calls it. He hit pay dirt at some point as the album is produced by the legendary Ry Cooder (along with his son Joachim who drums in Outlaw’s band). Whether it’s Cooder’s influence or not there’s a pleasing mariachi touch to a couple of the songs but in the main Outlaw delivers a very solid set that should be riding the radio waves.
From the gorgeous Mexican sweep of the opening song Who Do You think You Are to the closing rockabilly of Hole In My Heart Outlaw hits all the buttons. He’s sweetly melodic on Love Her For A While with its curling pedal steel, a honky tonk romancer on It Might Kill Me and downright forlorn on the delicate seventies styled Old Fashioned. Throughout his voice is relaxed and warm, the band supple and supportive, the playing superb with Cooder’s guitar contributions a highlight.
There are 12 songs here and they are all deserving of attention as Outlaw effortlessly traverses the landscape. Keep It Interesting is country rock of the highest order, the title song is a sublime string laden Chicano love song, guitars rippling and horns parping with style. Country Love Song is introspective, the guitar sound here excellent, as Outlaw yearns for a lost love and Ghost Town adds a darker hue with its organ suffused drive. Diving into his roots Outlaw offers the honky tonk stonker that is I’m Not Jealous and tops this with his excellent addition to the canon of grand country song titles on Jesus Take The Wheel (And Drive Me To The Bar), a song that sounds just like its title and sure to be a favourite at gigs. Finally, Outlaw stakes a claim as an outstanding songwriter on the moving suppliant prayer of Keep A Close Eye On Me, his words, his voice and the empathetic (and gorgeous) playing catapulting the song into a should be standard.
Angeleno is a great album and highly recommended. It was released here back in January but if it whets your whistle then the good news is that the man is playing Glasgow next week on the 14th April at The Fallen Angels Club at The Admiral Bar.