Dropped on the Head
Frankly, for this old-school fan of country music, the whole cowpunk thing has become a bit tiresome. True, for someone like myself who discovered The Sex Pistols well after he learned of the glory of Hank Williams, the idea of combining country themes with punk energy – and sometimes vice versa – was pretty neat. Jason & the Scorchers rule. The Beat Farmers kick ass. X still blows my mind. The Blasters rock. More recently, bands like Truckadelic, The Bottle Rockets, Slobberbone, and The Drive-By Truckers remain pretty goddamn cool. Still and all, there’s a whole lot more chaff than there is wheat in the world of cowpunk, as the 16-song collection from Georgia’s Illbilly Records proves. Dropped on the Head is a collection of the good, the bad and the extremely painful of recent cowpunk. Part of my problem comes from my own cultural roots as a rural Southerner. Frankly, I’m the hillbilly about half these bands wish they were, and more often than not, songs about drinkin’ Rebel Yell and the ubiquity of kudzu comes off a bit forced. It’s like they read Tobacco Road or saw Deliverance and decided they knew all about driving pick-up trucks, chewing Red Man, drinking moonshine, and other such peculiarities of the South. Still and all, there’s some enjoyable stuff here. Athens’ Redneck Greece, as always, satisfies with his skewered take on country music on “I’m Knawing My Arm Off Over You” and Carbondale expatriate Joe Swank & the Mule Skinner Band lay down some thunder on “All F*cked Up.” It’s not all cowpunk or country, as The Woodbox Gang thump through some old-school mountain music on the ironic “Better Place to Die” and Atlanta’s Ditchdiggers blast out some whiskey-bent rock and roll on “Grandpa.” In the end, Dropped on the Head a decidedly mixed bag, not a bad place to start exploring the new world of cowpunk but also not a great record front-to-back. The true test of any genre compilation is whether the songs hold up over the shtick and, for the most part, these Illbilly releases sadly don’t.
Illbilly Records, PO Box 924, Blue Ridge, GA 30513