Southern Lines (Mammoth Records)
By: Alex Steininger
With a country heart and a raunchy rock 'n' roll drive to spice things up, The Backsliders blur the lines between country and rock to form a sound that is as aggressive as you'd want it to be, without losing any of the tender moments. Led by Chip Robinson, a man who resides in a trailer park when he's not on the road, this band embraces everything rock 'n' roll is against, while also embracing everything it stands for. And in that, they come up with a wildly unique sound that will motivate you, make you cry, and turn you to mush.
From the first few seconds of "Abe Lincoln," the first single, I knew I was going to enjoy this album. I haven't heard a disc in a while that grabbed me as fast from the opening track as this one did. But the pop hooks, the rock 'n' roll spirit, and the country tingle was just so hot I couldn't resist. The chorus is as infectious as they come, and the verses back up the chorus all-to-well.
"Don't Ask Me Why" shows the band in a bit more of a country grind, letting the pop take a back seat so they can show their honky tonk roots. Still dripping with a rock drive, the song soaks up the country and spits it back at you in full-force. Robinson's voice reflects the country feel perfectly, while the guitars dive from rock to country, and back again with a blues jimmy. Each instrument is on fire, as the band jams away and has one hell of a time trying to make you feel the vibes they're setting out for you.
Of course, the band can also sit back and pour out the emotions in a calm setting, too. "It Rained on Monday" proves this nicely, serving up a gentle country-rock number that is calm and easy-going. As you sit there and let the song take control of your body, the band, and especially Robinson and his vocals, lets the emotions fly.
Rock 'n' Country, though, is what they love the most (although, they're great at both), so that is what they serve most often. "Angelita" finds them back in the rock saddle, with the rhythm section hitting the notes hard, the lead guitar keeping a country vibe flowing through the song, and Robinson's guitar making sure the song has a hearty rock appetite. His vocals, and lyrics, keep the songs lively and serious, yet entertaining. He never loses focus of the fun factor, as you can tell when the band jams away having the time of their lives, but makes sure the songs are serious and sharp. Near the end the song drastically shifts, giving off a different contrast as they slow things down and pour out a very soft, intimate number. It's almost as if a new song has popped on; but that is put to rest when the rock comes right back and the song starts to heat up again.
Ending with an all acoustic number, just Chip Robinson, his guitar, and light accompaniment, "Psychic Friend" puts a rest to the eleven track disc with an intimate approach that is heart-warming and wrenching. You can't escape the feelings here, as he refuses to hide behind the rock, and puts his feelings out in the open for all to observe.
The Backsliders stay true to both country and rock, forging their own paths and making everything work. They can let go and just have fun, they can be as serious as they want, and they can make you move. Here is a well-rounded disc. I'll give it an A.