Drunk Stuntmen, out of Northampton, Massachusetts, make ace barroom pop and rock ‘n’ roll — hearty, buoyant, a bit ’70s classic or arena, with shades of Tom Petty and Springsteen, and an album-perfect balance of driving songs, rocking songs, slow-cooked ballads, and kindly accessible hooks. Letting you know they’re a hell of a live band — and they are — is something you’ve probably guessed already, so the litmus test for new Stuntmen albums like State Fair is whether they can translate those frissons to headphones, living rooms, and car stereos, without the benefit of good time vibes, Saturday nights, and skinfuls for everyone.
Granted, the album takes a few tries (not beers, though those help, too) to really feel out. Not until the fifth track, a roots rock triumph called “Silver City”, does it start to burrow in, and all over the place come expansive keyboard effects, occasionally indulgent solos, and tricky tempo changes in a band not typically known for tightrope walking. But a few times through and decent tracks — such as the instrumental title cut — become good listens. And good tracks, like the lithe, twangy “Buy Your Love”, or the crisp pop of “Underground”, are keepers. No one’s reinventing the country-rock wheel here, and no one expects to.