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CD REVIEW: Bob Wire - American Piehole
By Chip Withrow - 07/26/2006 - 12:00 PM EDT

Artist: Bob Wire
Album: American Piehole
CD Review: When I read the bio that accompanied this disc, I thought, “Hot dog!” It referenced the Bottle Rockets, Jason and the Scorchers, and one of my all-time favorite long-lost bands, the Beat Farmers. Back in college, those bands made me fall in love with punkish rockabilly, and they led me to seek out outlaw musical heroes of yore.

While Bob Wire’s America Piehole won’t change my life the way the Beat Farmers’ Tales of the New West did, it is still a fun romp. Of the 14 songs on this disc, three are great and five are darn good. And even the rest are probably fun to hear on a Saturday night in a Montana bar.

“Too Tired to Cheat,” the first of the great numbers, reminds me of something I heard on Hee Haw when I was a kid, and I mean that in a good way: “I need something to eat, I’m running on empty/I would’t have what it takes even if she could tempt me.” Grace Decker on fiddle, Gibson Hartwell on steel guitar and David Colledge of guitar provide the authentic twang.

Bob is capable of clever, funny lyrics, but a few songs fall flat: “White Trash Paradise” relies on the usual clichés, and the lines that aren’t don’t make sense: the proud rednecks I know don’t drink wine from a box or hang pictures of the Pope. And “King of the Honky Tonk” is a nice idea – a country idol who is lonely deep down inside – but the rhymes sound forced.

It hit me as I was doing yard work this afternoon: “Tucson” reminds me – in spirit if not exactly in sound – of the great Statler Brothers song “Class of ’57.” The lyrics tell a poignant tale of two old friends reuniting (I couldn’t help but think of Brokeback Mountain, even though I don’t think it’s meant that way). Colledge contributes more of his Buck Owens-style picking, and Dan Funsch’s accordion adds to the nostalgic vibe.

“Cold-Blooded Killer” and “Rio De Muerte” have a similar minor-key tale-of-the-old-west feel. The guitar-fiddle dueling of “Killer” smokes, and it has cool couplets of doom like this: “Wyoming’s population shrank/when Johnny robbed a couple banks.” I found myself closely following the story of the Indian girl in “Muerte” to find out what happened next.

There have been so, so many songs written about America’s natural splendor being pillaged for the sake of industry. But “Dirty Paradise” holds its own against any of them, and it’s Bob’s best lyric on the album.

Bob’s humor is at its best on “As For Me,” in which the hero proudly states his refusal to grow old and peacefully die: “I’m gonna be right here, sippin’ cold beer, six feet over the ground.”

Even cuts I don’t dig as much, such as “Clean Livin’” (not too fond of the lyrics, but the guitar punched me in the gut) and “All Liquored Up,” probably work great in front of a partying crowd. There’s no doubt this band swings, and some of Bob’s wordsmithing sounds better after a few drinks – I tested this theory.

Nice job, Bob (and his buddies) – I used to skip class to listen to records like American Piehole. And now that I think about, even on that Beat Farmers album, there were a few songs I didn’t like.

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