Ah sweet home Alabama, where the skies are so blue, and it’s virtually impossible to grow up without ingesting a certain quota of country music. For Banditos, whose self-titled debut we’re currently wired up to, this heritage provides an expressive base from which to test the boundaries of rootsy music. Varied colours might be involved (from punk to boogie and bluegrass) but there’s a cosily familiar twang behind it all – one that conjures up visions of guys with proper untamed ‘man beards’ and Stetsons, playing banjos on porches.
Not entirely dissimilarly to Nashville trio The Cadillac Three, Banditos like their countrified stuff a little harder. It’s telling that they used to play in heavier bands, and that all grew up going to hardcore punk and metal gigs in their native Birmingham, AL. True, Banditos is clearly not ‘metal’, but the underlying grit involved lends spark and heft to their Creedence Clearwater Revival-edged fusion. Even the rootin’ tootin’, Johnny Cash and June Carter-rivalling bounce of Waitin’ powers forward like a proper rock’n’roll train (albeit driven by a particularly smiley cowboy). And for all its Delta spirit and loveable doo-wop touches, the zingy vocals and electrified guitar flourishes of Long Gone, Anyway stop things getting sleepy.
So, an album of cutesy Dixie-baked missives? Not quite. But there is seriously rich sweetness in places, especially when co-vocalist Mary Beth Richardson takes the lead on numbers like No Good – a dulcet ballad of heart-aching, bluesy classic rock and Southern soul. She makes a sumptuous match with vocalist/guitarist Corey Parsons, harmonising to Little Feat-esque effect in the jangling likes of Still Sober (After All These Beers). It’s a tasty contrast to the part swamp-blues, part ‘country-punk’ gravel in Can’t Get Away – while Golden Grease blends blues lead guitar with garage-tinted rawness and heavy, woozy 60s psych.
Following a shot of ‘lonesome cowboy’ swooning in Blue Mosey, things culminate in the cinematic, Wild West swell of Preachin’ To The Choir. It’s a lush finale to a fun, flavoursome feast of roots and bluegrass-based rock. If it all sounds like your bag (and let’s be honest, we’re dealing with easily likeable ground here), take a punt on a new band and check out Banditos – old souls in vivacious frames.