The Return of the Rockingbirds
Hopefully this is the spearhead assault for the second coming of British Country-Rock.
For the uninitiated, and that will be the majority of people, this is the Rockingbirds third album, with the previous one being released in 1995 and, mercifully, absolutely nothing has changed with the passing of time.
In the early 1990’s, the music industry – and especially British music – was in the doldrums. A small number of hardy individuals, and I count myself in that number, discovered a handful of bands in America who were playing Country-Rock but with a Punk attitude.
Only a handful of these British brave foot soldiers stopped shaving and donned their Stetsons and formed bands; but those who did have gone down in history and are still hailed as genuine legends.
The Rockingbirds stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the minuscule scene with their authentic, heartfelt songs and musicianship. But, their flame only shone for a couple of years with a couple of sightings in 2008 and ’09 to support the re-release of their debut album.
With this history lesson now in place, news of this brand new album was initially greeted with skepticism by the Alt-Country cognoscenti, but here it is in all its glory.
I truly wish I could tell you I dropped the needle into the groove but, with the merest hint of trepidation, I pressed ‘play’ and the most glorious sound came out of my speakers.
Till Something Better Comes Along allayed all fears as this song is absolutely wonderful. It sounds just like I’d remembered with guitars, a pedal-steel and what sounds suspiciously like a banjo melting together, with an underplayed bass and drums to create a genuine Alternative to Country and Rock.
You Can’t Win The Heart That You Broke is a real tearjerker and just goes to prove you don’t have to born in Texas to understand what makes a great Country song. Alan Tyler’s voice is weathered and warm, and has just the right amount of pathos to stop you breaking down and crying during this beautiful ballad. But, don’t be embarrassed if you do crack.
As with all the best Country songs, there is a hidden depth to this album plus a wicked sense of humour that threads its way through every song from start to finish.
The band stray into (early) Willie Nelson territory with Lady of the Llamas. You won’t be able to stop yourself closing your eyes and conjuring up your own Steinbeck-influenced video.
Country Humming is a clever song hidden inside a delightful piece of nonsense which is a very clever trick to pull off…and the Rockingbirds do it admirably. I was nearly caught out by Stop the War; but instead of being an anti-war song it’s actually a Rocker of a break-up song in the tradition of Robbie Fulks or Nick Lowe. It just needs a better title.
Without actually buying each and every one of you a copy, there’s not much else for me to say as The Return of the Rockingbirds is one of the most exciting album releases this year. Hopefully it means British Alt-Country/Country Rock of the very highest quality is back on the agenda.