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The Riptones

Cowboy's Inn – 1999 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by The Riptones

The Riptones' sophomore release is teeming with a dark country vibe that still comes off as bouncy and fun. Like some of country's great storytellers (Tom T. Hall, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings), The Riptones' Jeb Bonansinga writes simple and often unsettling little odes that are sonically bright and lyrically shadowy.

The Riptones play like a swirling mutant hybrid of cowpunk progenitors Rank and File and alt.-country bluesmongers the Beat Farmers, with a healthy genesplice of traditional influences. They run the gamut from dark biographical sketches that jump and swing ("Crazy Charlie," "Otis Hayes") to near surf guitar instrumentals reminiscent of Southern Culture on the Skids ("Go Be and Do," "Big Timber").

Even though there is a ragged quality to the presentation, the passion of the performance wins the day. Bonansinga can a hit a note flatter than Kansas, yet it never stands in the way of the song's outcome. The synergy between Bonansinga's guitar work and the thumpingly capable bottom provided by upright bassist Earl Carter and drummer Kurt Weisend makes for a raw delight.