Reviews

West of Texas’ Heartache Hangovers & Honky Tonks


By Brian Rock

West of Texas releases their Texas sized debut, Heartache, Hangovers & Honks Tonks. If ever there was truth in advertising, this is it. This generously packaged, sixteen song album is a virtual honky tonk jukebox in and of itself. With songs about cheatin’, drinkin’ and dancin’, played in classic old school styles, this album could’ve been called, country, country and more country. From western swing to Bakersfield to honky tonk to Tex-Mex and even a splash of Cajun, this album covers the diverse range of country music like a vast patchwork quilt.

Coming out with telecasters blazing on “My Whiskey Life,” lead singer Jerry Zinn sings the praises of “Jim and Jack and Jameson.” With an irresistible Western Swing rhythm that rollicks and rolls on cascading piano notes and bouncy pedal steel, you can’t fight the urge to dance to this one. It’s so potent you don’t need whiskey to catch a buzz. “Fixin’ To Love You,” is another dancefloor worthy example of western swing.

The band moves effortlessly into Honky Tonk on “Darlin’ How You’ve Changed,” “Cheatin’, Drinkin’, Hurtin’,” “If You Were In My Shoes,” and “12 Steps to Drinkin’.” Throwing steel guitar (and apostrophes) around like confetti, the band basks in classic mid 70’s Outlaw Country riffs. They even throw in pulses of Hammond organ to up the funk factor and fully capture the sound of the era. Jerry Zinn’s earthy, baritone voice makes each of these hard luck stories believable. Part Waylon Jennings, part Mark Stuart of Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, and just a touch of John Wayne, Zinn’s voice carries an authority and confidence rarely seen on a debut.

He puts that voice to good use on the tear jerker ballads, “Cost of Lovin’ You,” “Whatcha Drinkin’,” and “You’re Still the One I Dream of.” Moaning lines like, “how do we get over the things that should’ve never been said?” Zinn brings the pain of heartache into clear focus, though viewed through teary eyes. Even on the ballads, the band doesn’t take a rest as each of these songs is carried on gorgeous melodies with weepy steel guitar, somber bass lines and evocative, minor key guitar chords.

But the band doesn’t wallow in sorrow long. The Bakersfield sound of “Foolin”” and “Sound of My Heart Breakin’” bring the mood and tempo back up. Even if the lyrics show they’re still unlucky in love, the music shows they have learned to cope and move merrily along. They even add some spice to their buffet of heartache with the Tex-Mex rhythms of “This Fool,” and the buoyant Cajun rhythms of “Bayou Boy.”

With a sound too expansive to be contained by any one state (even the Lone Star State,) West of Texas plays authentic country music that spans the musical landscape of the entire Southern USA.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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