Published Oct 07, 2013Praise be to hillbilly heaven, the spirit of Hank Williams is alive and well. Alberta's Ol' Boots & the Hoots have resurrected the broken vocal formula that was perfected by Southern storytellers years ago and has since inspired so many amnesiac stadium-country singers. The 11-track Pinecone Cowboy features a poised collection of wittily crafted, downtempo western melodies, a cactus in the ass of modern, power-ballad country crooners that forgot the music of their grandfathers.
Pinecone Cowboy is a piece of timeless rural poetry. The juxtaposition between lyrics and music, so indicative of good country songwriting, is present in bittersweet songs "No Good Woman" and "Big City Waltz," which often balance tongue and cheek aphorisms, growth and anxiety with therapeutic hollering. VandenBrink's walking percussive bass, measuring footsteps and rustic floorboard toe-taps reinforce themes of rambling and roaming, coming and going.
Ol' Boots Graham's vocals break and recover like a standard transmission engine, articulating lonesome blues and recovery in terms of fist fights and drinking. Shades of whiskey brown and meadow green colour the unperturbed rhythm of the album, which seems uninterested in changing the pastoral landscape that has inspired their comfortable groove. The unchanging trio of double bass, guitar and banjo echoes the endurance of Conway and Cash, showcasing a simple Sun Records sound with ageless charm.
The wit and candour of Graham's jottings and delivery on tracks like "Cleo the Cat" and "Worse Days" are examples of potentially dull subjects turned fascinating by years of honing good song writing. The lack of tonal variety is acceptable given the cohesion of the band and the mutual understanding of the intended result. The enthusiastic confidence of Pinecone Cowboy is its most endearing quality, and in spite of era and location, the twang and drawl do not feel contrived. This well-assembled offering is at times static, yet also possesses an exciting potential that remains untapped but alludes to future bluegrass ascendency. (Independent)