Review – Chicowater: Country Pajamas

Baltimore, Maryland’s Chicowater‘s newest release “Country Pajamas” echoes the early gossamer days of pop, country and folk. The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and first 4 album Beatles is spot welded onto a Uncle Tupelo alt.country sound that twangs up power-pop and provokes an even impulse to weep and dance.

“Hold on” kick things off with a sound reminiscent of the fledgling Beatles rockabilly era. The energy just flies off the song. The hooks are infectious and the plunder of Ryan William Bender drums are crisp and unrelenting. Sweet mercy what a beginning.

The next cut “Jagged Hearts” a love-gone-wrong pop song riddled with Jason Lee Ashby’s banjo in the vein of a better Fleetwood Mac tune struggling with a serious Southern jones. “Stuck In The Mud” sound like a trudging, lumbering big rock song that it’s name suggests. This is the song you scream the chorus ’til you’re horse and fist pump to at the Chicowater live show.

“December” and “My darling Girl” are minor-chord weepers that channels Ryan Adams at his most heart wrenching with a sweet honey chorus provided by Jeb Stuart Johnston (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica) and Samantha Lee Johnston (upright doghouse and electric basses, vocals), but does Adams one better by not sounding like they deserve being screwed over for being a pretentious prick. “Learn to Let Go is another heart-broken take done as a blistering rave-up sounds like BR5-49 freebasing the Replacements.

“Ballad of a Fighting Man” serves up a great CCR style guitar lick Civil War lament, the trials of lose, war and the cost of memories with blood on your hands. The harmonica laden “Hard Times” sounds strikingly like Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers without the jarring fear-shifts.

This is a great release that shows an honor for tradition as well as the courage to take chances. I hope the band has a long life ahead of them and doesn’t let internal drama and strife tear them assunder as has been reported. We would all be the poorer if that happens.

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