[15 October 2008]
For fans of straight-up country music, there would seem to be but two options for new releases: the glossy pink pop sounds of the mainstream, or arted-up and unrecognizable. Of course this is a false choice. There are loads of artists who still adhere to traditional country songcraft without resorting to studio tricks or obfuscations: Steve Earle, Robbie Fulks, the whole Bloodshot roster. Add Drew Hickum & the Colonels to that list.
The self-titled debut from this western New England outfit is full of the pure thrills that great country hooks and sounds provide. From the irreverent opener “Don’t Believe In Love”, to the brash war story “The Army”, Hickum’s steely voice shoulders arrangements of banjo, briskly strummed guitar, and pedal steel courtesy of guest Bruce Tull (Scud Mountain Boys, Lo Fine). A 12-song set clocking in at just over a half hour, these songs get in and get out, but not before leaving their mark. Hickum’s lyrics and melodies will no doubt draw comparisons to early Ryan Adams, and that’s a good thing. The work of both exudes confidence in and love of a well-constructed and deeply felt country song.