Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants’ eponymous 2011 debut was a likeable enough slab of earnest, twangy No Depression rock, a disc that helped listeners who were waiting for the new Son Volt record to drop pass the time. (Shiflett, of course, was moonlighting from his day job as lead guitarist for Foo Fighters.) I’m not entirely sure what it says about the band that their sophomore follow-up is a 27-minute set of covers of ’60s honky tonk tunes (plus one original), but that’s what we’ve got with All Hat and No Cattle, which is a clever title for a country covers album, that.
Deeper meanings aside — and let’s assume the band is a low-stakes pressure release valve from his Foo duties — Shiflett and co-picked some fun tunes, revealing a sense of rollicking fun that didn’t always shine through on the first record. Any band that exposes a wider audience to deserving tunes like “Pop A Top”, “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young” and “King of Fools” is doing the Lord’s work in my book. (Though it’s fair to say we as a culture probably didn’t need yet another version of “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”.) That said, throughout All Hat the band plays it as close and straight-ahead as Buck Owens’ haircut circa 1961; it’s a Saturday-night bar band put to tape. Perhaps a slight tweak, like Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue, might’ve been in order? The lone original, “A Woman Like You”, fits in comfortably with the classics, riding along on a barrelhouse piano and bodes well for a future album of new material. Slight but enjoyable, All Hat and No Cattle makes for a fine music history lesson and a Saturday night beer-fueled singalong.