All Hat and No Cattle
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All Hat and No Cattle follows the group's 2010 self-titled debut, which introduced the veteran Foo Fighter Chris Shiflett's skill for writing understated, infectious Americana-influenced rock songs.Firm believers that in order to know where you're going, you've got to know where you've been, Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants recorded All Hat and No Cattle with a mix of reverence and revelry. Featuring nine classic honky-tonk covers and one original, the album's playful enthusiasmis palpable throughout the faithful yet fresh interpretations.
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All Hat No Cattle is both a self-deprecating and appropriate name for this record; the (somewhat derogatory) expression is used to refer to cowboy imitators, frauds, or other erstwhile pretenders. There's never a sense on this record that Shiflett has a genuine Southern past or even that this kind of music was important to him growing up. This album, recorded by a bunch of guys that grew up in California, sounds like country music transplanted to the west coast. It's somewhat strange that, this record sounds less authentic than the band's self-titled debut that featured original songs. The nine covers here are loose, freewheeling renditions that use the original songs' templates to have a good time with old-school country music. Whether the band is covering Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, or Waylon Jennings, it's clear that the band is having a fun time tearing through some of the genre's staples. The songs are energetic and breezy, and the one original song written for the album, "Woman Like You" fits right in with the others.
"Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" is the album's best cut by a good measure. Originally recorded by Waylon Jennings, this track brings the album to a close with entire band playing their full potential (particularly nice is Marty Rifkin's steel guitar and Derek Silverman's keys). It's a bittersweet moment; the most memorable track on the album occurs just as the album closes, and it shows just how could this album could have been. If "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" is the band playing at an 8 or 9, the rest of the album hangs around a middling 4 or 5. All Hat No Cattle offers two chief selling points: 9 solid honkytonk covers and Shiflett's clear, precise guitarwork (it's actually nice to see him out from behind the stomping powerchords of the Me First & the Gimme Gimmes/Foo Fighters' music). Chris Shiflett & the Dead Peasants' sophomore record can be fun, but overall, it doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. If you want to hear some solid, updated, lively covers of honkytonk classics, All Hat No Cattle will be worth your time but not if you're looking to tide yourself over to the next Foo Fighters album.
"All Hat And No Cattle"
(Side One Dummy, 2013)
. . .
Now here is a band that knows how to make me happy: start out with a ton of twang, add on an irresistible hard-country beat, crank up the volume, and keep it coming. Mr. Shiflett, a member of the uber-famous Foo Fighters, may be a rocker, but there's no sense here that he's just slumming as he plows into this high-octane set of classic honkytonk songs from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. I like my country music pure and hard, and this is quite simply the best, most satisfying collection of true twang tunes I've heard all year long. From start to finish, this is a really fun record, made to be played loud. Includes a rich, resonant version of Jim Ed Brown's hit, "Pop A Top," Faron Young's "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young," the rollicking "Guitar Pickin' Man" and soul-searing weepers like "King Of Fools." This, my friends, is music to drink beer by. Closing things out with a version of Waylon's "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" Shiflett and his band answer their own question: Hell, yeah! (DJ Joe Sixpack, Slicpue Guide To Country Music)