[14 July 2008]
Let’s All Go to Bed is The Mother Truckers’ third album, and it plays to the band’s strengths: Teal Collins’ big, brassy vocals and Josh Zee’s red-hot guitar playing. Along for the ride this time out are bassist Danny G and drummer Dan Thompson. Their work is solid, but co-leaders Colins and Zee are deservedly where the spotlight falls. The pair split up lead vocal duties, which makes for a nice contrast and allows the band to sing songs from male and female points of view. Zee’s “Streets of Atlanta”, with its come-on “So just come into my arms / And get off the streets of Atlanta”, wouldn’t work nearly as well with Collins on vocals. Meanwhile, Collins gets to play the part of the tough woman on “Never Miss My Baby”, in which she declares, “I don’t care much / If he’s there much / Don’t wanna see him come on home,” and the concerned wife on “Can’t Sleep in Tucson.”
Musically, The Mother Truckers fit into the roots-rock genre that sits comfortably between rock and country. There are a few songs here that lean heavily towards country, particularly Collins’ “Quiet Night”, a loping shuffle with lyrics that bring to mind a pleasant southern night out on the porch. Collins also contributes “When I Get My Wings”, a Billy Joe Shaver cover that’s presented here as a classic country waltz. Album-closer “I’ll Meet You There” sounds like an old-time folk song, with Collins on ukelele and lead vocals while Zee comes in with some stellar harmonizing.
For the most part, though, Let’s All Go to Bed rocks out. The album’s first four songs are all barn-burners, and The Mother Truckers sound like a rowdy bar band firing on all cylinders. Opener “Dynamite” sets the tone, a footstomper that has Zee and Collins trading verses about setting off dynamite.The title track is driven by lyrics filled with absurd, amusing similes about life—“Life is like some more when you’ve really had enough / Life is like some mace with your hands already cuffed / Life is like a tougher guy when you thought you was tough”—and it features a pair of speedy,virtuosic guitar solos.
Josh Zee’s vocals are solid, and he harmonizes well with Teal Collins, but his real strength is in his guitar playing. He plays with a sped-up bluesy flair that’s perfect for the band’s good-time party feel. Collins, on the other hand, is a competent rhythm guitarist but a great singer. She belts it full volume on the uptempo songs, and pulls back just enough on the quiet tunes, and she makes a strong impression immediately on the album when she jumps in on the second verse of “Dynamite”. The Mother Truckers aren’t doing anything especially innovative, but their enthusiasm won me over. And I’m a sucker for a bar band that sounds way too talented for the bar.