Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants

All Hat and No Cattle – 2013 (SideOne Dummy)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants

There can't be too many people that would anticipate hearing the words "Foo Fighters" and "honky tonk country" in the same magazine, let alone the same review. As it turns out, Dave Grohl's right hand guitar man harbors a not-so-secret love of the aforementioned genre, particularly the Bakersfield variety, which informs the nine covers and one original on "All Hat and No Cattle," his sophomore album with his side outfit, the Dead Peasants.

Shiflett's 2010 eponymous debut with the Dead Peasants exhibited his passion and facility for twangy Americana rock, but "All Hat and No Cattle" finds him digging through honky tonk's rich history for more direct inspiration. Shiflett and the Peasants researched and learned these songs and many more for a post-Foo Fighters tour last year, and then tried to recreate that live vibe in the studio. They've largely succeeded on "All Hat and No Cattle," successfully walking the wire between slavish covers and contemporary interpretations. The band hits the right balance throughout, but the biggest challenge may have been to get Shiflett's swaggering rock vocals closer to the more conventionally classic voices of guys like Wynn Stewart and Faron Young. Luckily, achieves a similar balance as he brings just enough rock attitude to honky tonk milestones like Young's Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young, Stewart's Happy Party of Town and Merle Haggard's Skid Row. There isn't a false note here, even on Shiflett's bow to Bakersfield's enduring icon, Buck Owens, on King of Fools or on A Woman Like You, Shiflett's self-penned honky tonk tribute, which has more than a little Jason Ringenberg at its core. "All Hat and No Cattle" even hearkens back to the days when vinyl albums were 5 songs and 14 minutes a side, but with results this good, Shiflett might have been fine with adding another 10 tracks to the set list. Still in all, "All Hat and No Cattle" is big fun even if it doesn't last quite long enough.