By Roger Sharman
Austin, Texas has long been a hot-bed of musical talent across many genres. Home to the legendary City Limits music show, Austin can boast to having artists such as Willie Nelson, The Dixie Chicks, Dale Watson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin & Townes Van Zant as natives.
The current crop of artists is also creating quite a storm, the likes of Kyle Park, Carll Hayes, Parker McCollum, & Blues Guitarist extraordinaire, Gary Clark Jr. Now you can include The Golden Roses on merit in that list of contemporary artists.
‘Terlingua Graveyard’ is the full-length debut from the Golden Roses, released on February 22nd.
The band is made up of Johnny “2 Much” Mutchler on Vocals & Guitar, “Too Tall” Troy Wilson on Vocals & Bass, “The Revenuer” Shawnee Rose on Drums, “The Boy from Bell County” Sam Blumenthal on Steel Guitar & last but not least “Rockin” Heather Rae on Vocals & Fiddle.
‘My Special Place’ kicks the album off, it’s a drinking, good time song designed to get people up on the dance floor of the Austin Honky Tonks for some boot-scootin’. From the opening bars that good time feel is apparent, it had me smiling straightaway. Heather Rae’s talent is transparent from the off. This is how Honky Tonk music should sound and reminds very much of the sound of Mike and the Moonpies, another local band with a big future.
I seem to have a bit of thing with the second song on albums, I don’t know whether bands do it deliberately or not but I would say seventy five percent of the time they are my favourite on an album (that’s something I’ll explore with you in the future). ‘First Time in My Life’ continues that trend, it’s a song about the hardship of going through a divorce (I believe?) & overcoming that, more so, the feeling of being home, belonging, which from personal experience and from the many friendships I have with Texans Is right at the very epicentre of life in the Lone Star state.
The album is made up of waltzes, trucking songs and Honky Tonk with a hint of rockabilly.
The first of the waltzes is ‘Life of the Party’, and right at the core of this type of song is the pedal steel & fiddle. ‘Life of the Party’ is no exception, Heather & Sam both being on top form.
‘Whirlwind’ is an up-tempo instrumental country track, a short & quirky number. The intro sounds reminiscent of surf guitar god, Dick Dale’s ‘Misirlou’. It continues to showcase the guitar playing skills of Johnny and the fiddle playing of Heather.
The next waltz is another of the stand out tracks ‘Lone Star Saturday Night’. This is a real taste of Texas. This is the kind of sound that will ring out around the dancehalls & honky tonks, that being said they all suit, but the vibe of this song, for me, is what epitomises the Lone Star State, where country music is a way of life, not just a band playing in a honky tonk. People eat, drink and breathe music, which for me is the way it should be. A noteworthy shout out to Bob Wills is made during the song, no doubt Bob is an influence.
Anyway, enough sentimentality from me, ‘Bad Habit’, the single, is an upbeat trucking song, about a trucker with the handle ‘Bad Habit’ who’s hauling freight between Dallas & San Antonio. I love the guitar in this, I hear Chuck Berry in parts and Allen Collins in others, which is no mean feat.
The title track ‘Terlingua Graveyard’ starts out with very funky guitar, quickly joined by some outstanding pedal steel & a stomping bass line complementing the fiddle and vocals perfectly. It’s an outlaw jam that Whitey would be proud of I’m sure.
‘The Usual Suspects’ slows the pace down for a couple of minutes. A moment of self-reflection, revisiting an old favourite haunt, somewhere to seek a feeling of belonging, but finding that none of the old faces are still around, so Johnny “Sits alone singing these Songs”. Its another well delivered track from the guys.
The next song ‘Room 302, Divorce Division’, if I’m not mistaken, is a prelude to ‘First Time in my Life’. It’s the day of the divorce and Johnny paints the picture of a wedding taking place downstairs from Room 302, moving from joyous matrimony to the sadness of “making the toughest decision of my life” in moving up to room 302, the courtroom, for his divorce decision. This is beautiful melancholy.
‘Big Black Cloud’ is a song of hope in spite of the title, and of contemplation again. The call of home brings the sun. Like all that’s come before this is real, straight up country. I really enjoyed the harmonies particularly in this song, & once again outstanding Fiddle and Pedal Steel.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable album, from a very honest, hardworking band. It is good, solid, old-fashioned straight up Country, just the way I like it. The songs are catchy and will have you singing along, dancing or tapping your feet away. I imagine that these guys put on one hell of a live show, and I’d certainly love to catch them one day, I plan to!
If you are ever in Austin, Texas do yourselves a favour and look them up. They can currently be found playing at The White Horse (a ‘Whisky Slingin’ Honky Tonk) in East Austin.