If I told you this was a record for country music fans, you might think I’m being a master of the obvious, right? I mean this is a country music website, and I’m recommending it after all. But that rather concise observation is best way to describe The Golden Ponies’ Unstabled. It’s for country music fans, by country music fans, about country fans and their semi-successful and often times comical conquests to court women, set to country and Southern rock music that is appealing in its own right, but is made into something unique by the approach The Golden Ponies take to writing and performing their songs.
Chock full of humor, endearingly sloppy and unfocused at times, and enjoyably stupid, The Golden Ponies are like your favorite local band who plays weekends at the downtown watering hole, and are made that much more enjoyable and endearing because you know them. They’re your band, from your town, working a bad job right beside you, and drinking a beer with you between sets. With all the attention paid these days by artists and bands looking to “make it” in music, there’s something warm about a band that’s only looking to entertain the people standing in front of them. That’s what the Golden Ponies embody with their music, while still making a country record that can be enjoyed by a wider audience.
Don’t think of the foul-mouthed escapades of Wheeler Walker Jr. (there’s not a cuss word on this record), the parody efforts of Cletus T. Judd, or the protestations of some angry underground country band. The Golden Ponies do offer their own commentary on today’s country, as well as adult humor about drinking and dipping with the ladies. But it’s all done with a sort of wild-eyed, tongue-in-cheek, humor-laden attitude, yet in a way that still holds an element of truth within the songs, making them that much more entertaining.
Another unique wrinkle to Unstabled are these random references to country songs and artists peppered throughout many of the songs. Like most of us, songs and albums act as the soundtracks and reference points to various parts of our lives. The Golden Ponies imbibe this truth right into the music. They sing about how they once saw a now snobbish girl dancing to Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” while completely wasted, or how there’s a C.W. McCall cassette stuck in the deck of their beater truck. It’s these everyman references that suck you in.
The band is made up of Michael Parker, Nathan Shoemaker, Gabriel Knutzen, and Caleb Knutzen from the Tri-Cities area of Washington State who go by the stage aliases of the Barroom Poet, Charlie Chapps, Trucker Dude, and El Bolo respectively. The first six songs of the album are worth the price of admission alone from not just their side-splitting lyrics, but smart little audio Easter eggs they throw into the composition lest you begin to take these songs a little too seriously.
The second half of the album is mostly comprised of a montage of drinking songs that are interwoven with commentary from a bar scene that I’m not quite sure works as good as the first half. I think The Golden Ponies recognized they had a few weaker tracks and tried to figure out how to include them on the record, but the album ends with the rousing “Bubba’s Super-Secret Bunker Bar and Grill,” and rallies to result and an overall positive effort.
Probably not for everyone, but a distinctive new twist on country music that few if any have done before, Unstabled is a fun shift of gears to mix a little lightheartedness into the listening repertoire between your heady, sad bastard singer songwriter albums.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7/10)
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