After about four years of relentless gigging the length and breadth of Scotland, Anton & The Colts finally unleash their debut album and a fine beast it turns out to be. The band, based around front man and chief writer Anton O’Donnell and the mercurial would be glimmer twin, Roscoe Wilson (with a fine rhythm section in John Dunlop on bass and Dillon Haldane, drums), are one of those who sound more American than many American bands do. However there’s a boastful swagger to their gait which owes more than a little to the raunch of the Stones and the jollity of The Faces, in particular, Ronnie Lane’s contributions to the band such as on Ooh La La.
The album kicks off in spectacular fashion with the turbulent rocker Alright. An almighty crash of acoustic guitar flourishes opening the song before Wilson weighs in with some snarly electric licks and O’Donnell comes across as if he were Ryan Adams fronting the Stones with Anne Dunlop adding an almost gospel touch on her backing vocals. It’s a ferocious opener but somewhat misleading as on the remainder of the album the band settle for a less frenetic sound. Nevertheless, the following Blues to Bed is a grand sing-along country stomp replete with harmonies, fiddle and banjo – good old-fashioned country honk as the Stones once said.
Alright, despite its raunchy delivery is actually quite a desperate song with O’Donnell singing about drinking his weight in wine just to drown out a girl’s name and much of the album is informed by losers in love. Under My Skin & The Thorn In My Side is a bittersweet waltz time song with tearful fiddle from Pedro Cameron while The Summer That Could Never Be Undone recalls halcyon days and is delivered with a hazy Byrds’ like folk rock lilt. That jangly sixties sound is recalled again on From My Fear which shifts from The Byrds to The Beatles with O’Donnell’s melodies and lyrics reminiscent here of McCartney circa ’66. They then delve further back on Rock ’n’ A Hard Place with Roscoe’s guitar sounding as if it were captured in Sun Studios while O’Donnell snarls away.
There are three songs here which really elevate the album. Gypsy Heart has churning electric guitars from the get go which pulsate throughout the song as O’Donnell reflects on past glories and then adds some excellent harmonica to the corkscrewing guitar solo. My Favourite Song allows O’Donnell’s voice a chance to shine as he sings of the communion between a fan and an artist at a gig. With piano from Scott Keenan added to the mix the song sounds as if it was plucked from the heyday of singer songwriters back in the seventies as it gently flows from the speakers. Finally, Weekend Millionaire, the album closer, is an excellent song which again is not too far removed from The Faces’ template, a wonderfully laid back acoustic bedrock, harmonica and supple guitar supporting the wearied and anguished vocals from O’Donnell as he sings about the dreariness of 9-5 working and vainglorious weekends.
For a debut album this is quite self-assured, the songs have been road tested and are captured here perfectly. They may summon up a lot of ghosts but O’Donnell writes and sings well and he has a perfect foil in his partner Wilson. Together they carry their roots/rock/Americana flag high.