Those who follow my nonsense know I’m all about the edgier side of the roots music scene. And, on the crustiest, dingy side of roots rock, you’ll find Baltimore’sWestern Star. These dudes shred like Maiden with a true cow-punk back end. Their latest, Fireball, is the record you put on as you're heading out on the town to tear some shit up with your buddies. Calling on the ghosts of the real Thin Lizzy (RIP, Phil), the edge of the Pixies, and the bouncy alt-country of the Old 97’s, the band’s freshmen offering Fireballcaptures all that, on street meth. We get ;oud chord progressions, Bob Stinson-esque solos, and vocal stylings that sound like a grimier mix of Bon Jovi with a touch of Jagger.
The disc was produced, incidentally, by the great Ken Bethea, who’s shredding we’ve all enjoyed whilst he rips his solos for the Old 97’s.
Fireball is a full-frontal offering of original garage country punk, both vocally and musically. Teetering on late '80s metal solos and country chicken picking, Max Jeffers and Justin Myers are no slouch on axe work. Bob Shade on drums and Nicholas on bass, round out the Western Star front, and powerfully at that. The brothers Jeffers carry the weight songwriting-wise.
The title track is the quintessential opener -- in the first 20 seconds you see the direction you’re headed and the volume knob edges upward a few clicks. Moving into the ghoulish country punk of “Ghostchaser” and over-the-top cowpunk of “The Difference,” Western Star firmly implants its brash guitar rock into your being. They take the edge off with bouncy alt-country binges and then close out the record with the melodic stoner rock song called “Oracle.” That's the only song on the record that makes it past five minutes. Add in a poppy tilt on gems like “Lady Killer” and “Forever And A Day,” and the indie punk edge of “Clockwork” with it’s odd chorus and rockabilly guitar, and this record is a foundation on which this band will surely build.
Western Star will be making some noise in the future -- literally and figuratively, especially under the wing of a vet like Bethea. Fireball(released Nov. 20 on Saustex Records) is a phenomenal debut album that rivals most of what I’ve heard all year. If you want to hear some heavy guitar garage rock with your alt-country, this is your record. (No Depression :: 12/12/15)