EP Review: Crooks – “Lonesome, Rowdy and Restless”

Features — By on January 19, 2011 8:49 pm

There’s nothing quite like a classic high lonesome sound to get straight to the heart of every country and roots music fan, especially when it’s done right and with honest emotion. This Austin, TX, four-piece sure got it right.

A follow-up to 2008’s full-length, self-titled album (and a precursor to this year’s second full-length), “Lonesome, Rowdy and Restless” packs quite a whallop in such a small package.

The images come straight out of Country & Western pulp fiction: bar stools, 18 wheelers, whiskey drinkin’, houndogs, small dusty towns, endless highways and regret, all of which would teeter on the edge of cliche with a lesser band. Fear not, for Crooks pull it off with gusto.

Frontman Josh Mazour’s vocals have the requisite honeydripped twang that anchors multi-instrumentalist Sam Alberts’s soaring and forlorn harmonies. Alberts (guitar, mandolin, trumpet) adds to the gritty and melancholy atmosphere with perfect spaghetti-western sound.

There’s a delightfully frustrating conflict between a sense of place and the itch to take off down the highway, if simply for escape. “River Road” opens with the restless “Back home we’d lie in the grass/And we’d talk about the future and past/All things that we don’t know we don’t know we don’t know,” while “Downtown” is as dark and tragic as any classic Louvin Brothers or Gram Parsons song.

“18 Wheels” is pure roadweary ballad bravado — nowhere to go and plenty of time to get there — and “Bar Stool” gallops with rockabilly stomp and a firm nod to Hank Williams Sr., featuring one damn fine hook. The EP is a quick ride, the first few miles of a road trip, and we look forward to the rest of the trek with Crooks.

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