Twangbangers: 26 Days on the Road

[27 March 2002]

By Barbara Flaska

Remember that old diesel-powered country classic, “Six Days on the Road”? Things certainly are accelerating and vistas expanding if 26 Days on the Road is any proof. The back story is that between September 18 and October 13 of 2001, the pedal was straight to the metal as the Twangbangers supercharged their way cross country on a short sweet tour, delivering a series of country/roots-rock shows that got people to talking. Most of the tracks for 26 Days on the Road were recorded live in Springfield, Missouri, and not only immortalize a high-octane show date, but the Twangbangers’ rock-solid delivery hearkens straight back to the good old days of country music, when country music could be unbelievably good.

That’s right. Much of the music on these 12 tracks is blessedly free of the clean and tidy overproduced mishmash generic pop crossover sounds passed off on C&W radio as C&W in these modern town and country times. But that isn’t the only reason this record delivers. Occasionally sounding more like a honkytonk supergroup, the Twangbangers feature Hightone label mates Bill Kirchen, Redd Volkaert, Dallas Wayne, and Joe Goldmark, along with Kirchen’s rhythm section, Johnny and Jack. Well, Johnny and Jack … not the same Johnny and Jack as their namesakes, but just those two names alone should ring more than one bell in honkytonk heaven.

The gentlemen start their engines with “Truck Drivin’ Man”, a Texas roadhouse jukebox song with all the proper story elements detailing a brief pit stop in a small truck stop’s restaurant. A waitress swings a coffeepot towards the thick white mug, and a jukebox lights up for a quarter. Two cups of coffee and one song of three verses and seven twangy guitar breaks later, it’s back to the road.

For rockabilly fans, “I Got a Rocket in my Pocket” is just the ticket to ride. Kirchen rasps out bold raunch lyrics about where the rock in roll comes from while he and Volkaert trade lines back and forth on their “telepathic Telecasters”. Nowadays, some might call this retro styling, but if so, this song grinds out enough grit to sound like it’s the genuine article. Underneath, the bass and drum rhythm section provides the fast hard and heavy breathing of the music. This one swings the barnyard gate straight off the hinges.

Kirchen and all are in fine form when outlining the details of his own “Rockabilly Funeral”, beginning with his crazed (but hardly) last request to be buried in his Coupe de Ville. Complete with zany echoing vocal tricks and a low gnarly guitar run into notes from Chopin’s “Funeral March”, the singer piles on a growing list of last request(s) for his own rocking procession to the “Brylcream-atorium”. The song, yet another in the long body of country death-march material, is a reminder that when some hands are on the driver’s wheel, funeral plans can sometimes be awfully funny to consider.

But the song you probably won’t hear on your modern country music radio station is “In Memory of a Memory”. An emotional and anguished-sounding weeper as wrenched out through Dallas Wayne’s impressive baritone with the inspired Joe Goldmark gently sobbing on pedal steel. It’s too real.

Even though joined here together as a band, there’s enough drawn from each of the Hightone artists’ repertoires to provide a good sample of their individual work as well. After hearing this, I’d be quite surprised if the listener didn’t start dipping deeper into the favorite Twangbanger’s catalogs on Hightone.

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