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Two Dollar Pistols offer a dose of honky tonk

By Rick Teverbaugh, October 1998

Things appear to be looking up for the nearly ever changing Two Dollar Pistols. Up as in "Step Right Up," the bandıs new disc, but also in terms of making a name for themselves outside their home of Chapel Hill, N.C.

John Howie, nearly the only consistent figure in the hard core country/honky tonk bandıs career, has put together personnel more to his liking for the group that recently released the live disc for the indy Yep Roc label.

"My goal was to have country musicians in this band instead of rock musicians posing as country players,ıı said Howie. "Now I feel that Iıve gotten that."Part of the way heıs reached that plateau is through the addition of Steve Howell on guitar. Howell comes from The Backsliders and brings multiple talents to the three-year-old group.

"The thing thatıs great about Steve is his genuine love for the music," said Howie. "I also think that heıs a great songwriter." That helps to balance the efforts of Howie, who admits a strong affection for ballads. Yet live, as on "Step Right Up," only a couple of slow numbers are included in each show.

Howie went through his rebellious period where he ditched country music as being his parentsı property. He even spent some time as a drummer in a punk rock band.

Eventually he made his way back. "When I moved out of the house at age 18, I found out that my peers were listening to the same music I was, but they also appreciated country and jazz and other forms," said Howie. So now heıs come back to country and is ready to bring other people to the fold from both sides of the fence.

"Our best response has come from older people who canıt relate to todayıs contemporary country and the younger people who havenıt been exposed to traditional country and find it as something new," said Howie.

But the group has no desire to retread anything. "We want to make music as honest and genuine as possible without falling into a retro bag. I have no interest in playing the old songs exactly the way they were originally recorded or in writing songs about somebody getting on their horse and riding in to town."

So where does Two Dollar Pistols fit in todayıs musical, genre-littered marketplace? "I would guess that alternative country, as a loosely defined category, would suit us because it encompasses a lot of different strains of music," said Howie. "But some groups in that category I consider to be not very much country at all."