These roots rockers love Johnny Cash enough to pay tribute to him with their band name and kick off the album with a take on Carl Perkins' "Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man," performed here as a "Jackson"-style homage by singers Michael J. Smith and Letitia Blumette, who don't try to exactly mimic Johnny and June but do an excellent job of channeling their vocal rapport. Smith's "The Ballad of Johnny and June" is a slide guitar-filled romp and another duet with Blumette; the roadhouse rocker loosely tells the story of its titular characters. Much of the album is filled with well-known chestnuts like "Sixteen Tons," "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky" but there are also interpretations of the dark Trent Reznor-penned "Hurt" and perennial Cash favorite "Ring of Fire."
Tiffany Huggins Grant
Grant opens the record with the wistful "Some Days a Dollar," one of only two songs here that she did not write or co-write herself. On the old school country of "Love Letters" Grant sounds like Linda Ronstadt circa Heart Like a Wheel, her voice on the slow torch song wrapped in sweet pedal steel. Another slow number, the bluesy "If You Only Knew," is also a great showcase for Grant's nuanced vocals, and while much of the album displays a certain fragility, Grant also sounds good taking a stand on the country rock of "Fighter."
Smith & Wesley
Choices & Chances
Garage Door Records
The line between modern country music and southern rock is pretty blurry these days; either descriptor is apt for the album's opening cut "Thirty Pieces," classic not only in it's hot guitar riffing but also in its mention of trains, coal mining and the good old southland. "Bottle Half Full" is old style country (think Buck Owens) but modern sounding songs about whiskey and drinkin', workin' hard, and trying to figure out love fill out most of the album, representative of the fact that the appeal here is to the ordinary guy with universal concerns, and who obviously also likes to party.
Share this article