The Upshot: The Jersey devils reinvent themselves as a pure honky-tonk combo, but with a twist—they cover themselves.
BY FRED MILLS
Having long admired Jersey’s Ribeye Brothers, first as a roots-rockin’ offshoot of Monster Magnet, and, ultimately, as a hard-edged combo with genre subversion in mind, yours truly continues to get sucker-punched. That’s what Tim Cronin, Jon Kleiman, Joe Calandra, Brent Sisk, and Neil O’Brian aim to do—fuck up fans’ expectations—and they now deliver another masterful set steeped in rich melodies, a compellingly propulsive rhythmic attack, and of course their trademark sense of humor. But there’s a twist.
All Hat, No Cattle is the followup to 2014’s Call of the Scrapheap, a sterling slice of pure garage rock that invoked the ghosts of 13th Floor Elevators, Bo Diddley, Link Wray, and the Velvets. This time out, though, the gang lobs a huge curveball by covering themselves in country-rock fashion. Which means, for example, that the previously rollicking “Call of the Scrapheap” cranks up, instead, the banjo, brings in the pedal steel and fiddle, and twangs its little heart out. Similarly, the tune “Shit Car,” from 2013’s New Ways to Fail, had a bit of a power pop injection, but here it’s in pure honky tonk territory. And “Death or Greyhound,” when rendered in 2005 for Bar Ballads and Cautionary Tales, came across in contemporary times as a gently luminous folk-rock anthem; this time around, it’s gone full Bakersfield.
The twang ethos has always been part of the Ribeyes’ approach, don’t get me wrong. So a track like “Gunga Din” doesn’t get too radically overhauled compared to its 2014 counterpart; it simply gets its countrypolitan groove on with a bit more deliberation. So in essence, we fans get a unique spin on already familiar material, and the A-B comparison is borderline fascinating. Years ago, Southern Culture on the Skids did a cool little thing for their live shows, opening for themselves as the straight-country outfit The Pinecones, then shifting back to their signature swamp-choogle during the main set. It would be great to see the Ribeye Brothers doing likewise in concert, doing a set of garage and psych, followed by the same setlist but countrified.
Whattaya say, Tim, Jon, and gang?
DOWNLOAD: “Gunga Din,” “Swagger Turns to Stagger,” “Call of the Scrapheap”