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Chris Shiflett

Hard Lessons – 2019 (East Beach)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Chris Shiflett

One would think that Chris Shiflett's two decade stint as guitar foil for Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters would keep him so pathologically busy, he'd barely have time for a real life, let alone an adjunct music career. Somehow he has managed to do just that, splitting time between a variety of punk bands, including Jackson United, No Use for a Name and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and his solo activities which include Chris Shiflett & the Dead Peasants as well as recording under his own name.

Shiflett has pursued a solo identity for nearly a decade now and, like a good many of his punk brethren, he has chosen to explore his country/Americana roots in those endeavors. Since 2010, Shiflett has released four albums under his own name - two with the Dead Peasants, and two Chris Shiflett albums, 2017's "West Coast Town" and his just released sophomore effort "Hard Lessons." The latter two albums were helmed by producer-of-the-moment Dave Cobb, who has a great feel for artists like Shiflett with feet in differing musical camps and helps them create a cohesive whole.

Unlike a lot of his punk cohorts, Shiflett didn't go full bore country/bluegrass but pursued a potent hybrid of his two loves, loud, adrenalized rock and swinging Americana/country. "Hard Lessons" largely picks up where "West Coast Town" left off; the lead track, "Liar's Word," sounds like it could have been an outtake from any Drive-By Truckers triumph, "This Ol' World" has the cosmic cowboy texture and stance of Sturgill Simpson and the ostensible title track, "The Hardest Lessons," starts off with Shiflett attacking his guitar like John Lennon on "Helter Skelter" before shifting into an outlaw country gear. There are purer country moments, like the tongue-in-cheek honky tonk classicism of "The One You Go Home To," a brilliant duet with Elizabeth Cook, and the loping Outlaws/Atlanta Rhythm Section country rock vibe of "Leaving Again," but the album typically hews closer to the Lynyrd Skynyrd-tinged southern rock of "I Thought You'd Never Leave."

Shiflett is living proof that artists can easily serve two musical masters without compromising either one.