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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Zachariah and the Lobos Riders

Alcoholiday

Review by Rick Damigella

It may sound clichéd but booze and country music go hand in hand. There is nothing quite like the twang of a Tele and the mournful wail of lap steel washed down with beer, whiskey and red wine (notice I said “and” not “or”). The new album from Zachariah and the Lobos Riders, appropriately titled Alcoholiday, is quite literally drenched in the Devil’s tears. If your drinkin’ buddy ever stands you up one night, these outlaws will be right there to help you drown your sorrows.

If you are young enough to not have known the 70’s Outlaw Country Movement, or if you are a fan looking for something new in the genre, then this disc will give you a boot inside the Outlaw revival currently underway. Zachariah and the Lobos Riders are no newcomers to the music scene. Alcoholiday is their second full length release and the third if you count their country/hip hop fusion soundtrack for the cult film “Dead and Breakfast” which also featured singer Zach Selwyn in a key role.

The sound is decidedly old-school 70’s Outlaw, with appropriate twang from the strings and the vocal chords and enough songs about booze to make this album a candidate for an intervention. And in keeping with the Outlaw spirit, there are a few genre bending surprises here for the adventurous listener, from a country rap to a live cover retooling of a hip-hop classic. Don’t let that scare you off. First and foremost Z and the Riders are all about the Outlaw sound and not overproduced crossover Nashville country. By and large, this is a great album to help induce or even chase away a hangover.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Alcoholiday
Raise your Barley Sandwich and tap your boots to the twang of the gi-tar that opens the album - a classic tale of love, loss and beer. The intentional entendre of “I’d peel away your labels and drink you down / you made me feel better each swallow” are beer soaked innuendos about a woman who sends the protagonist on his Alcoholiday. The song is a great lead off number and one of the best on the album. If Jimmy Buffett had been born a gun slinger and not a pirate, he might have recorded this one.
I Ain't Gonna Do (Walk Away)
Whistling ala “The Good, the Band and the Ugly” leads ofv this next number which barrels down the tracks like a runaway locomotive thanks to the driving beats of “Quick Draw” Scott Lorenzini. This is Outlaw Country at its down and dirtiest best. One of the best things about this track is Zachariah’s hip-hop influenced lyrics. He is not rapping or rhyming in the strict sense, but you can hear the genre’s influence just the same. It's among the top songs on the album.
Lonely
Delicious pedal steel guitar riffing opens the next number and helps propel it along with the pickin' and grinnin' of Wailin’ Jim Kalin on banjo. This is purely an invitation to the listener to join the band in a round of Train Misser to keep each other company.
I Seem to Dream in Westerns
So if a smart director tries to resurrect the Spaghetti Western I nominate this as a perfect opening theme or credit roll underscore. The slower paced beat and moody playing is like a walk down the center of a dusty town just before noon. This is a gritty, real and authentic Outlaw Country ballad. Recommended beverage for this one: tequila, and make sure you eat the worm.
Suenos Dulces
Dark and brooding guitars from Dan Wistrom and Toby “Rattlesnake” Semain set an ominous opium tinged tone for a tale of a cowboy holding the Dead Man’s hand. It features a very dark and haunting delivery from Selwyn who sings with enough conviction as to make us believe the song’s character is riding off into the sunset one last time.
Always Another Train
The loner road trip song makes its appearance here. A long ride outta Cali on I-10 starts off the adventure with a bouncy snare drum driven beat. Mix this “easy like the rain” number with “Life is a Highway” and “I’ve Been Everywhere” the next time you road trip to Vegas.
Honky Tonk Barstool
Zachariah belts out he “stayed sober last night” to kick off this one where the “woman is a metaphor for the addictive liquid” makes for a rocking tale of love and loss. Splash on some Corn Cologne and pull up a stool or two-step with your cowgirl to this fun number.
Hell and Back
The southern rock influence shines through here but this song won’t be featured in any Mississippi travel brochure videos any time soon as the band equates being to Hell and back as being “a lot like Mississippi.” Some awesome dirty-bluesy guitar riffing throughout this number gives it a great edge.
Dock Ellis
Things slow down for this next number which, quite obviously, is a country ode to Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis. Kudos to Zach for history-checking moments like Dock’s LSD-fueled no hitter in 1970 and his intentional beaning of four Cincinnati Reds batters in a row in ’74. Doubtful you’d hear this backing a video on the jumbotron at a ball game any time soon, but it’s as good a baseball song as any to create an iTunes playlist with John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” also in the batting order.
Telluride
This is a purely steel wound strings and vocals affair revealing a softer side to Z’s vocal delivery. This downright pretty song will attract the female listeners and probably works better than liquid panty remover when the band performs it live.
Medicine Man
Dark and mysterious, like this song, is the place where you will find the titular medicine man. The song’s protagonist goes to him seeking knowledge whether his woman will come back. My advice son, take two hits of peyote with firewater and call me in the morning. In all seriousness, this is a darkly beautiful number with some of the most fluid steel guitar playing you will hear all year.
Now We're Even
Kicking drums let you know this one is going to rock. The bouncy bass of Jeff “Jackrabbit” Legore gets a clean spot in the mix alongside Jim Kalin’s five-stringer. Intentionally cracked vocals from Zach give a fun vibe to this hillbilly love and revenge song.
Paul Revere (Live)
Yes, that is “Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys being morphed into a country clap along. Let me tell you, I am a big fan of cover songs like this that rework the original into something completely different, while retaining just enough familiarity to give you a grin when you hear it. The Beastie’s rhymes are all intact save for name changes to the new three main characters. The most amazing thing about this is Zach’s arrangement of 20 year old and well known rhymes and how he turns them into a song that is so right in his genre with its existing western imagery that anyone unfamiliar with the original wouldn’t realize it was a cover. Kudos also to Bobby Joyner’s mad harp blowing skills.
Lyrical Trick Roper
Nowhere else will you find a banjo backed freestyle rap except here. OK, so hip-hop isn’t really my thing either, but you have to hand it to Selwyn who is “in effect with his flow, yo.” This is a fun diversion with name checks including Gene Wilder, “Booger” Wormser, and Topher Grace. The track is obviously a nod to requests Selwyn gets for country raps like he performed in “Dead and Breakfast.” I agree with Zach when he closes the album by declaring “man I f***ing hate rap / lets sing some country music.” A bonus for those listening to it on good old fashioned CD’s is letting this song finish and recycling back to track one making for a really cool alternate intro to the album.
 
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