Jun
10

Eric Strickland’s “Honky Tonk Till I Die” is a Gem

June 10, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  20 Comments

This is what Saving Country Music is all about. This is the reason I put my pants on every morning. Everything else is just fluff, filibustering, treading water until I come across that one artist, that one album that embodies everything true country fans are looking for but have yet to find. That is what you have with Eric Strickland and his band The B Sides, and their album Honky Tonk Till I Die.

From North Carolina, Eric Strickland offers up what in this bear’s opinion might be the best true country, honky tonk album so far this year, expertly balanced with love ballads, drinking songs, songs of struggle, and trucker tunes. This thing is virtually flawless. Get your magnifying glass out and pour over it, I dare you. From the songwriting, to the instrumentation, to just the sheer enjoyment this album offers and the variety of emotions it touches on, Honky Tonk Till I Die does it all just right.

The winning formula here is excellent songwriting paired with seasoned players. Looking at a picture of The B Sides on the inside cover with their beer guts and gray hairs, these country music veterans were the only players worthy of fleshing out Strickland’s stellar compositions. And Eric isn’t some backstage songwriting savant and that’s all, his singing is solid as well, and there is important attention paid to performance and appeal in this music. Honky Tonk Till I Die is amazingly tight, like these songs have been played 100 times before, smelling like cigarettes and beer from being treaded out in the honky tonk many times before being captured in the studio.

“Her” is an excellently-written tribute love song. “Shine Down On Me” is the soulful, honest plea of a real life musician, and the two trucking songs, “18 Wheels of Hell on the Highway” and “The Day The Truckers Shut This Country Down” comprise the fun portion of this album. Looking at the track list with titles like “Honky Tonk Till I Die” and “Haggard and Hell” you may think this is a hellraising affair, but instead I found it to be refreshingly mature and deep without a single swear word to speak of, yet still with some fist pumping, “hell yeah” moments to balance it out perfectly.

One thing I found weird was on my physical copy, the song “Standing in the Headlights” was missing in the track list, yet it is listed on online outlets like Amazon and the song was on the CD itself. Also the last track “My First Love” actually includes two songs, the second being “Drinking Whiskey” which I believe is from a previous Eric Strickland album of the same name. “My First Love” is excellent all by itself, with a bevy of great lines like, “…make you empty out your pocket just to fill up your glass.” and ends with a sing along you can see a whole bar getting swept up in during a closing time serenade.

But about this buried track “Drinking Whiskey,” this is an absolute masterpiece of a honky tonk country song. I mean this is a Song of the Year caliber stuff here. The way Eric holds out the “Whiskey” line way too long in the chorus, and then how the chords step down and deliver you to a country music bliss, it’ll get you and any dog with a drop of hound blood in him braying at the moon and jerking tears. It doesn’t get any better.

Eric may be tired of “Drinking Whiskey” or bashful because he released it before, and that is why he was inclined to bury it at the end of the last track. Well he can kiss my ass because it is new to me, and my plan is to point as many burning spotlights as I can on it. Some huge name should pick this song up and make a million dollars with it for themselves and Eric, so Eric can retire and write another one like this any many more.

My only reservation is that I only have two guns to give it. Needless to say, Eric Strickland’s Honky Tonk Till I Die comes highly recommended.

Two guns up!

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Amazon

This is the OLDER version of “Drinking Whiskey.” I think the newer version is better, with a little more of a honky tonk feel and some great Mark Knopfler-style guitar, but this is still a great version to check out.

20 Comments to “Eric Strickland’s “Honky Tonk Till I Die” is a Gem”

  • Hope you make it Eric!! You sure deserve it!! I’ve always loved to hear you sing. You know that. :)

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  • Wish there was more like him on the radio, I might would listen to it!

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    • “Drinking Whiskey” is the perfect example of a radio hit if country radio was actually interested in finding the best music to play.

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      • Trigger have you ever listened to Justin Haigh? I thought his last album was great and I think he is in the same mold as Eric Strickland. Another guy who SHOULD be getting radio play but isn’t.

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        • That name looks familiar, but no…

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  • ‘drinkin’ whiskey’ and ‘haggard and hell’ are stellar. another find for sure.

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  • This takes me back to my Uncle’s basement when he and his GM fishing buddies played and sang their butts off just because they loved it. They played real country and even threw in some Groovy Grub worm and Wipe Out just because they could and it was fun and felt good and was my introduction to loving what real music can do for the soul.

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  • This is ‘real’ country music at it’s best and the song’s are the kind you want to hear on the radio !…. ” Keeping Country Music Alive “…….. Eric Strickland and The B-Sides…

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  • I met Eric about a year ago after a Dale Watson show here in Richmond, where he got up and sang a couple of Hag tunes with Dale & the band. Great singer, and really nice guy. We traded CD’s, and he gave me a demo disk of him doing a lot of the songs on this album by himself with acoustic guitar, and I was immediately grabbed by the depth of his soulful singing, and the maturity of songwriting that Triggerman mentions in his review. Gonna have to pick up this album now! The samples I’m listening to here right now sound fantastic. Great players in the B Sides! Great review, and I’m glad to see Eric moving along and getting some attention!

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    • Andy – I was at the show, too, and it was the first time I heard Eric sing. His name had just been mentioned to me a few days earlier at a Dale Watson show in Charlotte. I said I’d keep my ears open for him. What a surprise when I invited some guy to sit at my table after his friends had to leave after one of them fell and broke her hip. I asked him his name, and he said Eric Strickland. Well, well. Then he got up and sang. My skepticism was soon put to rest and he won everyone over, including Dale. And he was so humble about it. Here’s a video of the 1st song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4SwKl3LDns&feature=youtube_gdata_player

      Skip forward to March 17 this year, and I finally get a chance to see Eric Strickland & The B Sides in Selma, NC, in an old ice house……old folks, old fashioned family values and NO alcohol. Totally NOT what I’m used to, but the love and support for the band was palpable. Hell, even Merle Haggard’s bus driver was there. I bought the CD and assuming it was the first album for this band from Johnston County, NC, I wasn’t expecting much. And boy was I WRONG. That hour long drive home seemed too short as it only gave me a couple of spins through the whole CD. I think my record is at 5-6 consecutive spins while listening at home. Yes, it is THAT good!

      Do yourself, and REAL country music, a favor and get this CD!

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      • Hey Carina! Are you in the Richmond, VA area? If so, and if you haven’t already, you should check out my band Andy Vaughan & The Driveline sometime. Honestly not trying to use this comment section for shameless self promotion, but if you like Dale and you like Eric, you just might dig us too and we’re in your neck of the woods.

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        • Thanks, Andy. I’m actually in Durham, NC, but always tried to make the trips to Shenanigan’s to see Dale.

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          • Well then come and see us at The Cave in Chapel Hill tomorrow night! :-)

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          • Sorry, Andy – not gettin’ out much since I broke my foot March 29th at a Dan Baird & Homemade Sin show. Surgery, one pin/2 screws and 6 casts later, I am just walking without assistance since last Thurs. Still have a cast on and those steps at The Cave are not gonna happen, or even coming the back door. Break a lip!

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  • Thanks for bringing this to my attention Trig..great stuff!

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  • It seems every time Eric Strickland writes a new song I find myself saying now that’s my favorite but this CD seems to have just been one big YES! The guys are great (Ray Walker, Gary Braddy, Jimmy Matthews, Bill Lamm )!!! All I can say is keep ‘emfeeding coming!

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  • Now THIS is country music! I’ll definitely be purchasing this album… thanks for sharing this Trig!

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  • Trigger you just keep turning me on to some great tunes I would have never heard. First Jason Eady and now Eric Strickland. It’s great to hear real country music in 2012! Keep up the good work.

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  • Picked this up yesterday and haven’t been able to put it down… What a great find!

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  • Eric is country music at its finest. . He gives his all when he sings and when he writes. He is a humble good old country boy who can really belt them out. This is the way country music is supposed to be.

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