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Friday, February 03, 2017


SHOEHORN REVIEWS  
they're short because so's my attention span
Scott Foley, Routes & Branches

What a rush and a gut kick to have a new record from this Kansas trio, their first in about 8 years, and only their second without founding force Kirk Rundstrom.  I tripped across Split Lip Rayfield's lime green beauty unexpectedly whilst traipsing thru Bandcamp.  While I've been a fan of SLR since way back, let's admit that it's been awhile.  As founding fathers of the roots punk thing, who could blame them for losing a step to age?

Well, good news:  Not only have Wayne Gottstine, Jeff Eaton and Eric Mardis kept their edge honed, they've even seen fit to push out in some new musical directions for On My Way.  Sure, you've still got the firey fingers banjo and the legendary gas tank one string bass upon which the group built their reputation (see "All Alone" or "Used To Know Your Wife" for this fix).  But listen to the sinister minor key haunt of "Start the Fire", where a near-metal vocal almost makes you forget that all the noise is being generated by three guys with acoustic instruments.  And you'd be forgiven for expecting another raver from "All Fucked Up", which turns out to be a downcast, tuneful moment of introspection and self-doubt:  I'll just lay down right here in the yard / Like an old piece of trash, it's time to mow the grass / The wind makes me cold. / Would you help a broken fool who's lost in the rain.  And like most of the collection, the song is instrumentally remarkable.

Another sweet moment comes from "This World", riding a rubberband riff from that unexpectedly expressive bass.  This world ain't nothin' but a place for you and me to laugh and sing.  Even more soulful is "Drunk and Sad", which features the trio's deceptively tight harmonies on a heartfelt plea for moderation.

Of course, longtime listeners will cherish SLR's more freewheeling moments like "That's My Girl".  A loose and loping romp with a bluegrass bite and your fair share of banjo.  If bass is more your thing, dip into "I Don't Need a Gun", another acoustic metal go-for-broke moment.  With some of the record's most rewarding instrumental work, the song reminds us that Gottstine, Eaton and Mardis aren't simply on a state fair victory lap.  We're dealing with deserving trailblazers.

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