[20 August 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
There’s a stunning image on the inside cover of the CD digipack for the Smoking Flowers’ latest album, 2 Guns. A young woman, presumably vocalist Kim Collins, stands with a Granny Smith apple on her head while, blurred in the foreground, someone is pointing a handgun at her. It’s a William Tell moment, and one that suggests taking risks and daring. Well, 2 Guns is a rather provocative and risky kind of work: country-rock flavored in a late ‘60s sound. This husband and wife duo (Scott Collins is the husband) sound remarkably like Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, and this album picks up where Grievous Angel left off. It is full of honky-tonk stompers, such as the opening cut “Spark & Fire”, which is a little long as it runs close to five minutes and seemingly doesn’t know where to stop, and “The Juggler”, a crunchy mid-tempo rock number that might be the best moment on the disc.
In fact, much of the album is choc-a-bloc with songs that whoop it up, and have a little tinge of ‘60s psychedelic rock to them. On “Spark & Fire”, Kim Collins sounds a little like Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick. It’s fun and exhilarating to listen to. Where the group falters a bit is on the slower material, which tends to fill the second half of the record. The Smoking Flowers is clearly a band that’s better when they’re busting out the rockers, such as “Pistol Whip” and “66”. However, even in the album’s weakest moments, it’s still quite affecting, and you have to admire a group who so faithfully mines a type of sound that doesn’t have very much currency in today’s pop-country market. 2 Guns is a resolutely strong album of ambition. Just hope that that gun doesn’t go off and miss the apple.