Review- Hellbound Glory Old Highs & New Lows

March 29, 2010 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  20 Comments

Hellbound Glory Scumbag Country In some ways, I should hate Hellbound Glory and their new album, Old Highs and New Lows. I’ve been on the warpath lately against artists and bands who think being REAL country means shoehorning as many drug and whiskey references as possible into your songs. And though there’s not a track on this album that doesn’t mention drugs or drinking, this album is pure gold. It rises way above the fray with the sheer quality of the music and songwriting.

Leroy Virgil, frontman, singer, and songwriter for the band must be a tireless student of country music. His use of lyric is superb. He turns a phrase as good or better than any songwriter in the underground, or mainstream today. The way he constructs his songs is purely in the tradition of country music, but as fresh and relevant as anything else you will hear. With his use of key changes at the end of songs and modulation in others, you can tell Leroy has done his homework of how to engage the human spirit in song, and then drive it home at the end. He doesn’t ape the styles of Johnny Cash and Johnny Paycheck, he learns from them and builds on their legacies.

Leroy Vrigil Hellbound GloryThis is not neo-traditional country. There’s no Cookie Monster lyrics or other “Hellbilly” antics. It is high energy, but not crunchy enough to call it cowpunk. This is pure 100% Cooder Graw Dusty Bumpkins country; the way country would be if it’s evolution hadn’t been stymied by pop.

The songs are about drinking, and drugs (pills especially), and the heartache that stimulates such self destructive behaviors. I never knew you could rhyme so many words with Oxycontin.

Every great album has a run of songs somewhere in the track list that keeps you engaged throughout and keeps you creeping that volume knob to the right. This album starts off with that run. “Another Bender Might Break Me,” is the mid tempo ball buster ballad, “Gettin’ High and Hittin’ New Lows” is the fast, superpicker song, and “Be My Crutch,” is the slow tearjerker. “Be My Crutch” might end up as my Song of the Year for 2010. It is so pure, so well written and spot on it’s sick. Every great album also has that one song you can’t wear out no matter how many times you punch it up, and that is “Be My Crutch.”

The next song “One Way Tack Marks” is a Johnny Cash-esque song about a heroin addict, that modulates the cords as it progresses. The album is so well arranged, so patient and thought out. If a pedal steel is called for, or maybe a banjo, it is added to the track, in the right place, and not overused.

The songs “Either Way We’re Fucked” and “Why Take The Pain” highlight Leroy Virgil’s skill at turning phrases back on themselves, an old country trick. Again, this is a trick some country artists have employed in such a repetitive way it drives me crazy, but Leroy does it with such tact and taste that it works well. When it doesn’t work, it just seems like a clever trick. But the way Leroy does it, it helps convey the inherent dichotomies of the human condition that make country music such a strong sedative for the pains in life.

Hellbound Glory Old Highs and New LowsAs I started to get deeper in the track list with songs like “Slow Suicide,” “In the Gutter Again,” and “Too Broke To Overdose,” I was starting to get a little jaded with the onslaught of drinking and drug references, but I’ll be damned that as each song progressed, something about the song structure or the way Leroy Virgil turned a phrase would suck me right back in. I do think that Hellbound Glory would benefit from trying to work in some songs about different themes, at least to clear the pallet, but the singular focus of their lyrics in this album does not hold any individual song back.

“Too Broke To Overdose” is a bona fide hit, though it does use a pretty common walk up technique to bridge the song together. The problem with some of these songs is that because of the subject matter, Hellbound Glory is limiting the audience. I wouldn’t go telling them to get away from what they do best, I know that their whole thing is being the “scumbags of country,” but Leroy Virgil is such a great songwriter, I would like to see him try his hand with some songs that a wider audience could get behind. Though I’m sure Leroy cares little about what anybody thinks, and that fearlessness is why he’s such a great songwriter.

The album ends with a great, up-tempo cover of Hiram Hank’s “I’m Leaving Now (Long Gone Daddy).” This is the second Williams-related song on the album, with “Hank Williams Records,” probably being my least favorite track on the album.

I know I’ve gone long here, but I really can’t say enough about this album. They say that you have your whole life to write your first album, and that is why I think sophomore performances are the most important for a band. Their first release Scumbag Country showed promise, but Old Highs & New Lows shows that they are an elite country band that deserves the highest amount of attention and recognition. Hopefully Hellbound Glory is bound for more than just hell, because they deserve to be.


Hellbound Glory is on Gearhead Records.

Download the album and/or preview tracks from Gearhead by clicking here.

Buy the CD from Amazon by clicking here.

20 Comments to “Review- Hellbound Glory Old Highs & New Lows”

  • one i’m looking for on my next trip to rhino. thanks, triggerman.


  • What the hell are cookie monster lyrics? Great review!


  • Listening to this right now. Was going to write a review for alt512, but you seem to have said everything.

    Honest and dirty. I love it.

    Reminds me a little of JB Beverly & The Wayward Drifters but with something else…


  • I was gonna wait until they roll through town to pick this one up, since I snatched up the new .357 and funds are limited. But my resolve has been wavering, and I think you just broke it. When I got their first album I was bummed that “Another Bender Might Break Me” wasn’t on it, since that was a highlight of their live show. Nice review man.


  • Anybody who listens to Blue Ribbon Radio knows how much I love Hellbound Glory. I think I’ve played them more than any other band.


  • Cookie Monster Lyrics: Think Gary Lindsey.

    Podcasts is where I first heard these cats.

    I would compare this CD very much with .357 “Fire & Hail,” as it is a second release, and the band clearly pulled out all the stops to make it exactly how they wanted it. It’s the type of CD that shines a national spotlight on a band. I want to say I prefer it to Lightning From the North, but that’s not really a fair comparison.


  • Well thank ya sir for turning me onto these guys, checking them out on Rhapsody for my first time right now.


  • Great review of a deserving recording. This is defintely NOT a crossover country band. Hellbound Glory is dedicated to cranking out country music Leroy-style and it’s real good stuff.

    The only thing missing from this review? There was no mention of the other good musicians on the recording, particularly the excellent guitar work done by talented lead guitar player “Nascar” Nick Swimley. See them live when you can. They cook!


  • You’re totally right Skweeto. I had so much to say about this album and this review kept getting longer and longer. I could’ve squeezed a few words about the players though, all of which did a great job, including the players that are not part of the regular band. I really like the drums on this album. Most of the time you don’t notice the drums on a country album, but I noticed Chico’s playing. Great stuff all the way around.


  • If you think this CD is good, you should hear these guys perform the songs on stage! Live, these songs are even better! Hellbound Glory is a as real as real gets. And they have DOZENS of other original songs that are just as good. Spend a night with the band the next time they are in your neck of the woods. It’ll be the most fun you’ve had at a club in a long time!


  • Yeah what I’ve heard of these guys is great. I’ll definitely pick this up when I’m able.


  • Why is anybody with talent going “hellbound”, “SCUM” ,ETC. COOKIE CUTTER CLICHE’. wE’RE ALL HELLBOUND, WHY ADVERTISE IT …I understand it’s scum country, but I wanna also see some regular working class assholes make a record. There’s a lotta culture out there.
    .. damn I should’ve before carpal tunnel sit in.


  • Sacramento,

    Looks like I’m gonna be able to catch these guys in July in Reno. They need to figure out how to get east of the Rockies.


  • I’m also looking to catch them this summer in Reno.


  • howdy leroy,frank,chico,nick come back to truckee!!!!!


  • I’ve had this album now for almost two months, and it’s still getting regular play! Great great songs that stick in your head (in a good way). Can’t wait to see them up in Montana again!


  • […] I wrote my review of Hellbound Glory’s new album Old Highs and New Lows I forgot to mention the other great players on the album besides […]


  • […] #1 – HELLBOUND GLORY – Old Highs & New Lows […]


  • […] This album came out of the gate as an Album of the Year candidate early in the year. It has been sitting in the clubhouse while many other projects take their best shots, and here it still sits atop the leaderboard. The quality of this album is undeniable, from the songwriting, to the musicianship, and the accessibility. This is not some obscure project that you must have an ear for underground country to appreciate. Save for the racy-drug-infused lyrics, it is an album for the masses that is nealy impossible to wear out. (read review) […]


  • I’ve been listening to this album for quite a while now, and I know this an old review, but I can’t say enough good things about this album. “One Way Track Marks” is exceptionally good.

    ” I hope the Angels up there
    can hold him and heal all his scars

    with their sweet and gentle ways they’ll erase
    the one way track marks on his arms ”

    The songs on here seem simple and straightforward at first, but upon multiple listens you really get a sense and respect of Leroy’s mastery of country music. He has great song writing abilities and his tones, tempo changes, and instrumentation are spot on. There’s underlying themes with deeper meanings to the songs that really surprise me. Its so refreshing to have Hellbound Glory making music. I can’t wait for more and more. For all of Kid Rock’s shortcomings, I’m glad he grabbed Hellbound Glory for his recent tour. Hopefully more people get introduced to him.

    This is truly one of my all time favorite albums.


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