Before putting the latest disc by Southern Culture on the Skids on for its first spin, one eagerly awaits the band's hallmark sounds - twangy guitar and smart-alecky vocals. But the surprise is just how mannered this collection of covers seems to be.
SCOTS, a clever trio known for harnessing rockabilly and Creedence-esque guitar in the service of odes to snack cakes and dates at the racetrack, actually sounds serious in its attempts to add a dash of hillbilly spice to such songs as the Kinks' "Muswell Hillbilly" and the old Claude King country standard "Wolverton Mountain." Wondrous vocal harmonies are intact, especially when SCOTS' own Mary Huff warbles away on the Creedence Clearwater Revival track "Tombstone Shadow," (and the obscure pre-CCR song "Fight Fire" by John and Tom Fogerty from their band the Golliwogs). And you still get the twang and fun. But what's missing is the revel-in-your-roots hoopla that SCOTS brings forth so easily in their own songs like "Eight Piece Box" and "Fried Chicken and Gasoline."
There's lots of fun here, and it's a revelation to hear the band try its hand at folky relics like "Have You Seen Her Face." SCOTS earnestly embraces its so-called "trashabilly" side in most cases. While it's nice to hear them stretch their wings a bit, it's still nicer to hear them go for broke. But it would have been more interesting to hear them bend these songs to their will, rather than bend their will to these songs.