Big Bender Records is “the Rocky Mountain Regions [sic] only roots rock/alt country/roadhouse record label.” What the folks at Big Bender serve up here is twenty-two hit-or-miss minutes of samples from (you guessed it) seven of their acts. Seven Dead Roses Vol. 1 is entirely listenable, just not very memorable. I think it has something to do with the “Americana” umbrella, which seems to cover a lot of bands who, although they may have a very deep love for American roots music, aren’t really trying to push its boundaries. Instead, they play it safe, assuming that their traditionalism will win audiences over. This attitude seems especially evident on the first two tracks. Ash Ganley & the Lyons Rock Council are overly serious, and Clint Clymer’s “It’s All About the Ride” milks the daddy’s-last-words cliche for all it’s worth, but at least it’s a nicely-played acoustic number with an unexpected tempo change. Things pick up when Brendan McKinney & the 99 Brown Dogs do a twang-laden version of circa-1965 Dylan, right down to the title of “Just Like Z’s Blues”. It’s not spectacular, but it’s energetic and it’s refreshingly fun. We get into bluegrass territory with tracks by Oakhurst and the Shitkickers (whose “Burn It Down” lasts a whole minute and a half), and although both bands are relatively entertaining and the latter manage to rock pretty hard, neither creates much of an impression. SPIV take a nice stab at Sun Records-style country, the Munks go for the more traditional twang but with a bland “one for the money, two for the show” chorus, and then it’s all over. Maybe all of these performers do some fine stuff on their own albums, but this sampler just doesn’t seem to be the ideal way to hear any of this music.
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