The brainchild of vocalist and guitarist Mark Stuart, Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash aren't quite the outcasts their handle might imply. Never mind that Stuart actually obtained Cash's permission to appropriate his name or that the late Man in Black even invited them to record at his home early on. Truth be told, this outfit owes as much to Waylon, Willie, Merle, Kris and Billy Joe as it does to Johnny himself. Rowdy and raucous, but still hewing to a mindset that embraces highways and honky tonks, the band's latest boasts the sound of classic country sound entangled in a familiar setting.
Still, while there's much that's familiar about the aptly-dubbed "New Old Story," the energy and exuberance that accompany this outing manage to keep the music compelling in ways that are both vibrant and inspiring. The effect is immediate, beginning with the swagger and twang of opener Highway Bound, and continuing through the rollicking refrain of the not so subtle No Honky-Tonks, the assertive stomp of Poor Man's Son and the upbeat impulses of Leave a Light On. The sentiment shows as well, although the heart worn feelings expressed in Ain't No Tellin' and the sobering Bounds of Your Heart offer only the briefest respite at best.
In the end, "New Old Story" is exactly that, a rekindling of certain themes and emotions best identified with today's contemporary country. These are songs sung from the blue-collar perspective of lovers, losers and drifters with nary a place to hang their hearts. The perennial ache of pedal steel and the rousing revelry of banjo, Dobro, fiddle and mandolin provide the traditional trappings, but it's Stuart and his compatriots that offer up the attitude and instincts.