Life moves quickly for Americana act the Shootouts. After 2019’s debut Quick Draw, they tore into follow-up Bullseye, which brought them notable attention. Having fired and hit the target in quick succession (all while steadily touring), the band might have needed a breath, but when the chance to work with Asleep at the Wheel‘s Ray Benson came along, they couldn’t slow down. Given the timing of the work and its fast development, the Shootouts could have stumbled, but they just kept running with their high energy, fittingly naming the new record Stampede.
The quartet keeps moving through an array of styles less in step with contemporary Nashville and more drawn from other classic styles of country, notably Western swing, the Bakersfield sound, and a little honky tonk, occasionally suffused with some rock. For Stampede, they bring in a number of high-profile guests, none of whom make more sense for the record than Marty Stuart, who appears on the opening number “Better Things to Do”. If there was any thought of slowing down, that idea goes out the window immediately with a blazing guitar and considerable joy in this rowdy kiss-off to a relationship.
Buddy Miller joins in for the poppier sounds of “Anywhere But Here”, moving a touch south of Bakersfield to reach Laurel Canyon. Brian Poston’s lead guitar keeps just enough of an edge to prevent the song from turning too easy. “One Step Forward” with Benson makes the turn back toward country, with a classic swing sound for one of Stampede‘s highlights. Raul Malo joins the Shootouts next for “I’ll Never Need Anyone More”, a mid-tempo throwback reaching only as far as mainstream 1990s country.
Over those first four songs, the Shootouts shift between four styles, with tempo changes for each track, while bringing in four guests. At the same time, they sound entirely like themselves, sliding into various modes with an easiness that belies the intensity of each delivery. Whether touching on Sun Records (“Run for Cover”) or employing just a bit of the blues (“Feelin’ Kind of Lonely Tonight”), the Shootouts remain sharp and focused. The superb sequencing makes for an exciting variety rather than the random buffet that could have resulted.
Stampede closes with an acoustic take on “Better Things to Do”. If the instrumental title track didn’t offer enough of a showcase for Poston’s playing, this number puts him in a slightly different setting for just as much fun (and possibly a more impressive solo). The lyric suggests that the singer has no desire to hang around any longer, and indeed there’s an open, wandering sense to much of the record. The Shootouts might be ready to sit down for a bit, but they have nothing better to do than dig into their music. Stampede shows they’ll be here for a while, and the only thing likely to take off is their flexible sound.