If you’ve ever traveled I-40 through Amarillo, you’ve no doubt seen a true example of classic “Americana:” the Big Texan Steakhouse with its giant billboard challenge – if you can eat the entire 72 oz T-bone steak, it’s free. Next to the fabled Cadillac Ranch, it’s Amarillo’s most famous landmark.
I’ve known a few people who’ve tried; but no one who ever walked out without having to pay.
New to me in 2005 was Kelly Pardekooper, a singer-songwriter from Iowa. His release, “Haymaker Heart,” (Leisure Time Records) spent a lot of time in my CD player but I never got around to writing a decent review on it. Better late than never. So here goes.
"Haymaker Heart" is a mellow disc – a gentle acoustic guitar with a bit of a rock edge. Engaging love songs, sarcastic ballads. The mood varies from dark to peppy – there’s even a little Spanish-sounding guitar on the first track. Pardekooper’s voice has a kind of lazy quality to it that’s very appealing. He reminds you a little of Slaid Cleaves and the sound approaches folk but, you know, it rocks.
A most welcome surprise that fell into our lap last week was Leaving TX’s “100 Miles to Sunday.” Without knowing anything about it, we popped it in the player, and loved it. Just like that.
Lead singer Chris Patterson’s voice has the rough edges that invite comparisons to Brent Best, Patterson Hood, and one of my current favorites, Creosote. Leaving TX’s website cites a strong Jon Dee Graham influence but you don’t need to read it on the web to hear it.
The music is rowdy; the lyrics, rebellious. With titles like “My Own Songs,” “You’re To Blame,” and “Give A Damn,” these guys appear to have a chip on their shoulders. The kind of chip that leads to good music. The one cover on the disc is Nick Lowe’s tongue-in-cheek “Peace, Love, and Understanding,” a song that resonates this year.
On the whole, 2005 was a pretty good year for alt country music. Considering that, as a genre, it had been previously declared dead or dying, there was an awful lot of great alt country music to be had last year. A lot of what came across the radar screen never made it to the review pages of SlackerCountry. We would like to take this opportunity to address that particular oversight with this top 5 unreviewed releases list: