Album Review – Joe Buck’s Piss & Vinegar

Whenever the name Joe Buck comes up, invariably there will be someone spouting off about how he is not country. Sonically, this is certainly true–he is punk. Lyrically and historically, he might be more country than any other artist you can name. I didn’t think about it until I sat down to write this review, but Joe Buck is critically responsible for two of the top three albums in my Top Ten Albums of the Decade list. He played every single note on Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers Cockadoodledon’t (#3), and on Hank III’s Straight to Hell (#1) he played all the bass and help engineer and produce it. Oh, and it was also recorded in his house.

The uniqueness of Joe Buck is that never has such unchecked anger and vulgarity been accompanied by such Stoic wisdom, coming from the most mild mannered person you’d ever meet. Pissed-offedness is rarely hand in hand with introspection, self-repudiation, and a calm clairvoyance for the impending follies of man. But Joe Buck possesses this all, and at the heart is an outrage over the South’s decaying culture built into a wise, steadfast rage.

For those that have a pile of Joe Buck’s self- recorded/produced/distributed CD’s with their weird little drawings on the front and makeshift packaging, you might not see the point of buying the same songs again, or in some cases, a third time. But as Joe Buck put it:

I have to have a really great representation of this stuff because I’m really proud of these songs. It’s just they didn’t get their due and it’s one of those things where it’s like I can’t move on until I get this like I need to.

And that is what he has done with Piss & Vinegar. With legendary producer Jack Endino, he has created a uncompromised archive of his most popular songs, though I’d stop short of smack talking his previous releases. There is something endearing about their imperfections and homespun nature, but Piss & Vinegar may be the more accurate representation of the music. Owners of his previous material might hear these songs as a little to polished, just like if someone heard this album first and then went to the older stuff, the self-produced material would sound too rough.

There are some different hitches and minor lyric changes in the songs here and there, but probably the biggest difference is that Joe’s voice and lyrics are much more articulate and calculated. Yes, sometimes this is in lieu of the growling and anger, but on the flip side the lyrics are also more understandable, making them more potent. Yeah, I kind of miss his dog barking at the end of “Dig A Hole” but it’s also good to finally know the correct rapid-fire verses to “Devil Is On His Way.”

Since this isn’t packed with new material, it is a little hard to find the inspiration to shower this album with wordy praise, but it it is worthy of praise nonetheless. Initially it was going to be distributed worldwide through Century Media where it would reach new Joe Buck recruits, but with Joe Buck’s strong roots network and tireless tour schedule, it almost doesn’t matter. He leaves each town with a few new apostles behind, and his legacy grows.

Two guns up!

Buy Piss & Vinegar

Joe Buck Interviews: Interview #1 / Interview #2