With Scotland’s premier Americana festival at Southern Fried Perth looming, a perusal of the programme jolted us into remembering that we hadn’t discussed this second album from this excellent Perthshire band although it was released a few months back. For that we apologise but now is as good a time to delve into the album’s delights as surely any Blabber’n’Smoke readers within hailing distance will be going to Perth and they can purchase the album at the band’s show.
Anyway. Red Pine Timber Co. came into being several years ago, a hefty ensemble of players assembled by Gavin J.D. Munro, late of the much missed Southpaw, and they released their first album in 2014 (which we reviewed here). With Monro well versed in the Americana idiom and the band adding a fine Celtic soul sound mix to the songs (including an adventurous horn section) the album was a bold step forward for Monro. As we said at the time the album was a collection of, “Wearied ballads that glow with a Tupelo honeyed light while the brass section adds a tumescence that is quite daring.” Four years down the line and we find that this could quite easily sum up Sorry For the Good Times although there are fewer wearied ballads and in the meantime Munro’s vocal foil, Katie Whittaker, has blossomed into a singer par excellence, her crystal clear voice able to worm its way into your heart while also being capable of belting out some raucous rockers. The band meanwhile, despite some line up changes, are well honed in bar room ballads and country styled rockers with that horn section still injecting a vital ingredient into the mix.
The album is much more reflective of the band’s live performances than their debut release. Having seen them several times, outdoors, indoors, in a crammed sweaty pub and a concert hall, they always put on a fantastic show. Monro and Whittaker can bring a tear to the eye as they cast themselves as heartbroken losers in life’s lost highway before the band roars into action and rips it up sounding for all the world like a testosterone charged Hot Band or a whisky fuelled New Orleans combo. Happily much of this is captured here.
They open with a Byrds’ like guitar jangle on If You Want To before the horns weigh in and propels the song forward as Munro and Whittaker share vocals on a number which is defiant and punchy. The pair then deliver Hollow Heart which still has a pugnacious horn section but has at its core a simple country styled song with mandolin breaks and creamy pedal steel churning away as the pair sing like star crossed lovers. The third song, Tracks in The Snow, allows Whittaker her first opportunity to fly solo with the band dialling it down to a pared back acoustic backing with only a swooning steel guitar and occasional twanged telecaster interrupting her vocal reveries. An acoustic guitar solo erupts halfway through with Spanish sounding arabesques adding a touch of exotica to this magnificent piece. Munro meanwhile is the front man on The Same Kind of Pretty which has a sinful slide guitar worming its way throughout adding a swampy southern touch to the song.
We do get some much anticipated tears in the beer songs with Whittaker, sounding like a Nashville angel, singing the aching hurt of Put Down The Bottle while Munro, not to be outdone, gives us the boozy western waltz Bar Stool with the band expertly inhabiting a mood of inebriation as fiddle and pedal steel weave away and a tipsy trombone completes the scene. The band do gear up however for the Bo Diddley rhythms of Look at The Moonlight, sounding here like some bastard son of The Stones and Tom Waits with screeching fiddle and an impressive harmonica solo wailing out from amidst the sonic maelstrom they conjure up. They swoop into Gram Parson Las Vegas territory on two songs, the horn fuelled For the Angels (which again has a lovely touch of the Stones in the piano opening) and the magnificent Cutting You Loose which finds the band really cutting it as they sound like the tightest country rock combo around while Whittaker here excels, staking her claim to considered amidst the newest crop of feisty country singers such as Sarah Shook and Linda Loveless.
Sorry for the Good Times is an eclectic listen but the Red Pine Timber Co. are an eclectic band who fuse a wide range of influences into an energetic whole. It’s somewhat heartening to be able to report that, for once, a band is able to capture some of their live energy on a disc. If you are going to Southern Fried be sure to catch them live.