The Upshot: One of the purest purveyors of twisted Americana on the planet, SCOTS also dips into folk-rock, psychedelia and ‘60s pop and expands the palette accordingly.
BY FRED MILLS
It’s unlikely that the majority of Southern Culture On the Skids fans remember the Pinecones—or, for that matter, are even aware that, for a stretch during the late ‘80s, SCOTS had an alter-ego bearing that name Yours truly remembers, though, and fondly so. (I have the live bootleg tapes to prove it.) Essentially, the band would perform an opening set as the Pinecones, playing acoustic-based twangy/strummy countryish stuff (sometimes with a lap steel featured prominently) along with bits of melodic folk-rock. After a break, they’d come back out in full electric gonzoid SCOTS swampabilly ‘n’ choogle, and the contrast between the two sets was not only intriguing, it helped display the depth and breadth of their influences and inspirations.
The Electric Pinecones is not a revival of the Pinecones, however, but a record more generally inspired by some of the material that the alter-ego worked up back in the day. The addition of the word “electric” is the tipoff. In the words of bandleader Rick Miller, “Those old setlists became the starting point for this record.”
And what a terrific record. From first single “Grey Skies,” with its jangly modal riff and ‘60s West Coast vibe, and its twangier, equally Nuggets-worthy compatriot “Dirt Road”; to the moody, tremolo-infused “Waiting on You” and a bluesy, psychedelic ballad given the perfectly-themed title of “Slowly Losing My Mind”: The Electric Pinecones does indeed find Miller, bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman dipping into territory they don’t routinely explore on album. Although it’s certainly worth noting that, in 2016, the group’s palette of genres is far broader than it was in 1989. In fact, a good chunk of the material here won’t feel even remotely alien to SCOTS fans—just check out the hillbilly rockin’ of “I Ain’t Gonna Hang Around,” the girl-group pop of “Midnight Caller” (a delightful showcase for Huff at the mic, incidentally), or the blue-collar dustup of “Downward Mobility.”
As usual, the SCOTS folks never forget their roots. It’s just that over time, those roots have spread out in so many directions that they’ve become one of the purest purveyors of Americana on the planet, and not simply keepers of the Southern flame.
Consumer Note: Coming in November will be a limited edition colored vinyl edition of the album, and preorders snag you an immediate digital download of it. You know you want it.
DOWNLOAD: “Midnight Caller,” “Dirt Road,” “Waiting On You”