It seems like these days everyone is imitating whatever the flavor of the month is in any given genre of music, and it is truly a rare and original thing to come across something totally fresh and original. I guess that’s why the new double album debut from The Boxmasters got me so excited.
From the very first time I heard “Poor House,” I knew these youngsters had that something special. Their music is a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. They have a look and sound that is reminiscent of the British Invasion bands of the mid-1960’s, but with slick pedal steel guitar and vocals that reflect influences from Buck Owens and Roy Acuff to early Merle Haggard. It is music that defies description. It’s original, upbeat music with lyrics that are usually pretty dark, making for, once again, a totally unique experience.
The two disc set features one disc that is all original songs and and the second disc is a collection of cover songs, performed as only The Boxmasters can perform them. One of the coolest things about the album is the way they segue from one song to the next with musical interludes that border on Pink Floyd style psychedelic swag. Too cool.
The original songs are great, and the lyrics really speak to the Southerner in me, with words like “I’m workin’ on a plan to save our home/Keep us out of the poor house...” See, 'poor house' is an expression I heard all the time as a kid in Carolina. Then there’s the song, “I’ll Give You a Ring,” which is all about a girl (aren’t they all) who has taken everything from a guy he loves, including his ESPN. “I’ll give you a ring when you give me back my balls.” Similarly, “I’m Watching the Game” is about a man’s eternal search for uninterrupted consumption of beer and sports.
“Work of Art” is a brilliant play on words, and “Shit List” has that touch of tongue in cheek humor that is a recurring thread throughout the Boxmasters album.
Disc two begins with a classic Ernest Tubb cover, and includes a take on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Some of Shelly’s Blues,” written by former Monkee Michael Nesmith, a song that went over big time when I saw the Boxmasters live at House of Blues last summer. Speaking of The Dirt Band, The Boxmasters turn in a great rendition of “House at Pooh Corner,” a Dirt band classic written by Kenny Loggins.
The Boxmasters rock out on Mott The Hoople’s “Original Mixed Up Kid,” The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright,” and Mel Tillis’ “Sawmill” with equal passion, and their version of The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sounds like the Lennon and McCartney classic was written for pedal steel.
The Boxmasters have created a new sound that is fun, smart and downright good. Oh, did I mention the lead singer is actor/producer/musician Billy Bob Thornton, aka: “Bud?” Much like his breakout hit movie Slingblade, The Boxmasters are more about heart and originality than following the latest trend. I really like that. I believe you will too.
-Michael Buffalo Smith