Yet another band successfully achieves alt-country, managing to avoid an eye-rolling cliché and convincingly write of the beer-drinking, Basic-smoking, down-home kind of guy. This is Moonshine Matinee’s Hellbent, Drunk and Young.
The seven-song EP weaves the tales of the common man with Southern roots, and the debased brand of romance that comes with. There’s no shortage of nods to inspirations and influences that sneak up and tug at familiarity’s heartstrings—like Jesse James, Springsteen and I-65, which comes up in the first track amidst muted guitar picking and a percussive racket like cupboard doors rattling.
Besides barreling down highways, they cite two staples for Southern rowdies—whiskey and cigarettes—as though they’re the sixth and seventh members of the band.
Towards the middle of the album, frontman John Rowland busts out the piano, which seems to lessen gritty Americana value but add to melodic quality. Some particularly pleasing drum patterns (props to Barrett Alexander) pair with the breezy notes pounded out on the ivories, but however distinguished the instrumentation, it can’t mask Rowland’s cracking voice, which is so raw, it can’t even really pass as the rustic charm of vernacular. He gets away with it because it’s alt-country, but more interesting is the middle fence they ride between melodic sophistication (which Rowland pulls off on the keys) and lyrical humor.