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CD REVIEW: Hillbilly Vegas - Shake it Like a Hillbilly
By Cyrus Rhodes - 03/09/2012 - 03:25 PM EST

Artist: Hillbilly Vegas
Album: Shake it Like a Hillbilly
Label: Red Dirt Music Company
Genre: Rock
Sounds Like: Black Crows, Kid Rock, Poison, John Cougar
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Little Miss Rough and Tumble, Girls and Gravy
Weakness: A tad more Instrumentation
CD Review: Oklahoma based band Hillbilly Vegas release their latest CD entitled Shake it Like a Hillbilly in 2011 (red Dirt Music Company). The band is headed up by musical mastermind Johnny Reed and was produced by Richie Owens (Georgia Satellites, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton.) Influences include The Kentucky Headhunters, Jerry Reed, Grand Funk, Loggins and Messina and Flying Burrito Brothers. 

The CD kicks gets off the ground quickly with the title track a guitar-driven intro piece that serves up slamming rock groove against driving rock rhythm, sizzling fretwork and well placed vocals from vocalist Steve Harris. Track 2 “Oklahoma” keeps things moving in the right direction with its rock steady rhythm, Southern Fried fretwork against in your face vocal delivery from Harris. Tack 3 “Little Miss Rough and Tumble” shifts gears a bit with its well placed Hammond Organ accents, heartfelt vocals against a grand slam of a chorus that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. this CD is just a breath away from sounding like the next big Poison album. I would classify this music as Southern fried Rock n' Roll, Jam Band, R&B, and even Americana to Rockabilly. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice things like impressive Hammond Organ chops, impressive slide and solo guitar work, banjo, mandolin, and lush harmonies layered everywhere. Now turning our attention over to Harris - as for his vocal abilities, he holds his own quite well within the confines of this catalogue. His voice has everything you would expect from a band of this caliber and dishes out a rebellious vocal flair that knows now boundaries. His voice is rock solid across the board as he takes many vocal risks throughout the CD indicating to me a strong and confident vocal ability. His singing is full of passion and reckless abandon. I suspect some of his vocal influences are – Black Crows, Brett Michaels, John Cougar, and maybe even Kid Rock and Jon Bon Jovi.  Some track even sound in the vein of Lynard Skynard. By track 3 the CD hits it's stride delivering 5 solid tracks back to back including one of my favorites “Helluva Night” and “Girls n' Gravy.” All songs are extremely well crafted and consistent across the board. This CD from Hillbilly Vegas delivers 11 solid tracks all providing musical enjoyment filled with strong musical variety and diversity. From hooky "Helluva Night” to heartfelt “Broken” and “Wrong Side of Goodbye” to rocking “Girls n’ Gravy” this CD has something for just about everyone. A few songs even have a Country Western flair – “Faces Change” and “I Already Know.” The CD ends with “Mason Jars and Moonlight” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.

It’s had to find any serious weaknesses with this CD. Some songs are better than others. Just a few more instruments would bring more musical flavor to the table. Things like Harmonica, Pedal Steel, Piano, Poano, Accordion and even an occasional fiddle or two would take the edge off this quite nicely.

From start to finish Shake it like a Hillbilly by Hillbilly Vegas is an impressive musical collection - period! It has everything you would expect from a top flight musical production. The songwriting – world class, all consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair and signature groove. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalogue. The writing and playing abilities of Johnny Reed and the rest of the band are rock solid. The melodies and harmonies are well crafted, and the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with good old fashioned southern rock swagger. The gals will love these guys, the dues will want to be like them, and any bands looking for opening act would be wise to stear clear of them.  

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