With rhinestoned heart on sleeve and crafty sense of rocker’s discord comes the sophomore set from Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett’s Dead Peasants. The album, a true nod to uber-twanged cowpunk merriment, contains nine of the coolest honky-tonk whisky wailers you may have never heard; plus a Shiflett original inspired by classic Saturday-night watering hole hootin’ and hollerin’ south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Shiflett’s band, whose 2010 self-titled debut exposed the arena-ready rock god as a closet Americana specialist, dives headlong into gems like Del Reeves’ 1968 Top 5 country single, “Good Time Charlie’s” with a rabid shuffle and slapback reverb that would make even Carl Perkins jealous. Cuts like “Pop a Top,” originally done by Jim Ed Brown in 1967, brim with pedal steel fervor and barn-dance pleasantry; the track’s hint of novelty is given added appeal with Shiflett’s likeable faux-Southern vocal inflection.
Merle Haggard’s “Skid Row” is a taste of the Bakersfield sound that would pre-date the clenched fist of outlaw country, while another Bakersfield-synonymous name, Buck Owens, is represented by the dance-floor staccato swing of “King of Fools.” Shiflett utterly transforms his musical persona into a swinging, Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson-meets-Hank Snow paradigm – music made for kickin’ up dust and cryin’ into a beer.
With a sacred respectability yet brash once-over to the music he’s covering, Shiflett’s convincing Americana alter ego makes a bygone era in country music accessible to a jaded generation of listeners, sounding anything but dated.
Chris Shiflett & the Dead Peasants ‘All Hat and No Cattle’ Rating: W W W W
-Mark Uricheck, Weekender Correspondent