Album Review – Mike & the Moonpies “Cheap Silver & Solid Country Gold”
Some local musicians refer to Austin Texas as the “Velvet Handcuffs.” This not exactly affectionate moniker was coined to explain how musicians can make a living in the city, but only if they never leave, resigned to playing five or six nights a week somewhere in town, able to pay the bills, but unable to break out into anything beyond the Austin City Limits aside from occasional weekend junkets. Dispel any of your romantic notions about what the Austin music scene is today. That died years ago when Big Tech moved in, many of the legendary venues moved out, and so did a lot of the musicians due to housing costs and dwindling opportunity. When artists whose names are synonymous with Austin such as Dale Watson and Brennen Leigh have left town either temporarily or permanently, you know the situation is direly serious.
In many ways, Mike & the Moonpies had it made. They were mainstays in the Austin honky tonk circuit for many years, playing for crowds of loyal two-steppers in the city and surrounding areas. They were making a living playing music, which puts them in the category of fortunate souls in a business where only a fraction of a percent see their dreams realized. They could have settled for this life and still become legendary, at least locally, like many Austin musicians. And they did for over half a decade. It had to be hard to walk away from guaranteed weekly slots to try your hand at touring beyond the Lone Star State, and making a national racket about your music. This is where many Austin bands stumble, and fall. It’s why the velvet handcuffs fit so snugly.
But in the last couple of years, Mike and the Moonpies have been the band whose name first comes to mind when talking about who is bubbling up, despite some still regarding them as a known quantity as that “Austin honky tonk dance hall band” that perhaps they saw six years ago, and enjoyed, but never really thought of as more than simply a local project. Those years of dues paid in the dance halls and honky tonks in Texas helps underpin Mike and the Moonpies with experience and authenticity, but it also potentially typecasts them in the minds of some.
It was the hiring on of bass player Omar Oyoque that really made Mike and the Moonpies 2.0 something to regard with a fresh perspective. As a live country band, they quite literally became the best in the business. It was not only Omar’s infectious stage presence, but how he brought out the best of all the players that all of a sudden made Mike and the Moonpies one of the hottest names in independent country music. Hard charging, yet sentimental and subsnative when they needed to be, Mike and the Moonpies became something to behold.
Calling Mike and the Moonpies the best live band in all of country is not a way of inadvertently slighting their albums. In fact 2015’s Mockingbird, and 2018’s Steak Night at the Prairie Rose are excellent records with not nearly enough attention paid to them. It’s just what they’ve been doing live recently so outpaces the rest of the field, it perhaps overshadows their recorded efforts. And since their last two albums were recorded before Omar Oyoque had joined the band, you had a sense their definitive record was still there in the offing.
If this all had played out like it should have, The Moonpies would have mashed down on the accelerator with a new record and released something with even more hard charging honky tonk country songs to fuel new their intense live shows for the next year or so, and sent this thing into the everloving stratosphere. And so what do they do? They fly to London to record an album of mostly understated and nuanced material at Abbey Road Studios with the London Symphony. Risky? You bet. Out of left field? No doubt. Bold? To put it mildly. Successful? Speaking to anyone who has heard it, the answer would be most resoundingly “yes.”
True country fans are used to getting their hearts broken by their favorite artists when they eventually grow bored of country or their original sound, and go venturing off into who knows what, be damned what established fans think, if not to purposely trying to piss them off in some misguided notion about that’s what true “artists” do. The media, and prevailing sentiments in east Nashville claim that country music is too restrictive creatively, and that you must evolve from it if you want to be regarded as a real artist. Of course this overlooks just how expansive and omnivorous the country music genre is, how there are so many different eras and styles to explore, and also how creativity can be expressed just as much, if not more by working within a limited sonic palette as opposed to opening up your music to all influences.
Adding horns and strings or excessive keyboards and backup singers has also been a way for bored country artists to make the music more interesting to themselves, despite what the public desires, or what is truly beneficial to the music itself. On paper, an album from an Austin honky tonk band playing with the London Symphony doesn’t work. Yet that’s one of the reasons the album works so well. Just like taking the big risk by relinquishing their established weekly gigs in and around Austin to go national, Mike and the Moonpies shoved all their chips to the middle of the table with this record, and let it all ride, having to know in the recesses of their subconscious it could cost them everything, or at least set them back a serious pace. But now with this gamble, Mike and the Moonpies can not only be regarded as one of the best live bands in all of country music. They can be regarded as one of the best bands in all of country music, period.
A lot of comparisons are being drawn between Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, and the new Tyler Childers album Country Squire which was released on the same day, with many giving the tilt to the Moonpies. Though these comparisons are understandable, they’re also patently unfair, and to both artists and albums. Country Squire was the birthday present you knew you’d receive once the date rolled around. Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold was like the lottery ticket you found in the gas station bathroom that paid out $1,000. As a surprise album, there were no expectations to overcome. It’s all gravy.
Though it’s hard to find fault with anything on Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, it’s also fair to point out we only have eight songs here, including two well-recognized covers. Tyler’s Country Squire is a short record too, and it’s understandable why Mike and the Moonpies may have only included eight songs since renting the London Symphony can’t be cheap. But time will prove better where both records should be regarded in the 2019 pecking order, while we should all also be mindful that music is not a competition, and any pecking order will always boil down to people’s personal tastes. Tyler Childers will win the sales race, because he’s the one with the massive team behind him. Mike and the Moonpies are hoping Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold is their ticket to the big time Tyler Childers has broken into (and it probably should be). That “Hail Mary” aspect of Cheap Silver is one of the reasons this record is so cool, especially since they pulled it off.
One of the things that makes Mike and the Moonpies so lovable is their ability to not take themselves too seriously, even if they have the goods to do so, and even on a record such as this playing at Abbey Road with members of a European symphony. Where some bands might avoid certain subjects or modes as seemingly cliche, Mike and the Moonpies embrace these things as timeless, and breathe new life into them by applying their own perspective. The songs of Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold are still steeped in their honky tonk style, both in writing and approach, but with a fresh and bold feel. The strings don’t comes across like embellishments or add ons like they can often feel like in country. This effort feels very collaborative throughout, not just between the respective Moonpies players, but with the studio, its location in the world, and the strings.
The Moonpies embraced the challenge, navigated themselves out of their comfort zone on purpose, wrote and recorded a record taking a holistic approach to everything involved in it, and worked without a net. Where many bands and artists probably think, “Shit, wouldn’t it be cool to fly to Europe and record at Abbey Road?” Mike and the Moonpies actually did it. They called their own bluff like many of us wish we had the guts to do.
And despite the cohesive feel of this project, there’s a lot of variety here too. The song “Danger” has a distinctive Outlaw texture. “Cheap Silver” has the feeling of classic pop, applied through Countrypolitan influences. But no matter how far away from Austin they are, you still get that Texas honky tonk perspective in a song like “If You Want a Fool Around.” The up tempo “Fast As Lightning” will give them another steamroller for their live show. And tackling an unofficial Texas anthem like Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues” deserves kudos by itself. Breathing new life into it by adding some minor key arrangements is even more admirable.
Each of the Moonpies shows off talents we didn’t know they possessed on Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold. Mike Harmeier morphs into a crooner. Steel guitarist Zachary Moulton—who may be one of the best in the entire business at the moment—was tasked with showing some restraint from his regular blazing runs at live shows to find the ambient sweetness of melodies and tastefully embellish them. Guitarist Catlin Rutherford, who might be the most unheralded Moonpies member, feels like he’s in his perfect element on this record, not trying to overpower you with twang, but seeking out the evocation of moods, of which Cheap Silver has many.
With all that’s involved here and the surprise element of the record, it may take some time to settle upon any hard conclusions of what exactly we have here. More so than most records, this album will be worth revisiting in the coming months and years to conclude if all the risks they took here were worth it, and how much so. But one thing it’s easy to settle upon when listening to Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold is that Mike and the Moonpies are one of the most interesting and unexpected bands in all of country music at the moment. And their efforts should not just be resigned to the Austin honky tonk mindset. From London and all the parts in between, Mike and the Moonpies should be considered on of the preeminent projects in all of country music, and so should Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold.
August 5, 2019 @ 12:26 pm
If you aren’t on the wagon yet, jump on now because it’s going to be one hell of a ride with these guys at the wheel. There was talk earlier this spring about a double album/two album release this year, do you think they scrapped that? I can’t see this being a part 1 of 2 seeing how sonically different it is for them and I think this release was probably a little later than they expected if they planned on putting two out this year.
August 5, 2019 @ 12:37 pm
What’s your batting average Trig? You were right about these guys for sure. Who know a honky tonk band from Texas could go down to Abbey road with an orchestra and make a record so unique and undeniably Country. Gonna be very hard to top this one. Best record since Pinball. I’ve played through it many times and it still surprises. This could be big.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:42 pm
I’ve had my misses over the years too. Right now, I’d say Mike and the Moonpies are the ones above their average. Nobody expected this, and I’m not taking about the surprise release.
August 5, 2019 @ 12:44 pm
Over last few years I’ve become a huge Moonpies fan. I’ve spun this record a few times. Mucho respect to the boys for doing this. I can’t say it’s my sound but the music seems super high quality. Been thinking how these songs will fit into their blazing sets but I’m sure they will fill some in as ballads throughout the course of shows. Just lot of these songs seem like they would put a crowd to sleep and an extra trip to the beer line… and that comment has nothing to do with the quality of the music.
August 5, 2019 @ 12:48 pm
Thanks for a fine review. This album was a pleasant surprise and it has continued to grow on me. In fact, very late Saturday night, I was out walking listening to it and it just seemed so perfect for the time and place.
August 5, 2019 @ 12:53 pm
I’ve not been able to get into the Moonpies until this album. I had tried, but previous recordings didn’t quite bowl me over. It wasn’t like they were bad, they just seemed to not have that “spark” for me. Well, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold lit the whole fire within me. Maybe I just really dig this sound, but I very much appreciate the creativity behind the whole concept and album. It is very gratifying to see a group take a big risk and have it pay off.
The comparisons to Country Squire aren’t really fair or warranted, other than they were both released on the same day. I do wonder what was thinking behind this strategy, but overall the music fan wins with two new releases that make their ears happy.
I’m going to see Mike and the Moonpies for the first time next month. It’s gone from a show that was just kinda there on my calendar to one that I am hotly anticipating.
Good review- I’ve been recommending this album quite a bit.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:11 pm
Absolutely agree aka. I bought steak night and Spinned it around a lot..ok but i couldn’t really feel it. This one is a gem! I mean london symphony? These guys had probably been rehearsing on f**ing Wagner!! It’s a bad idea on paper..but it works out just fine!!.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:16 pm
I’m in the same boat. Liked a few songs, but the music itself seemed to lack a little juice and interest on prior albums. But man, this comes out swinging hard, and doesn’t back down. It’s done exceptionally tastefully and it introduces a little extra – more grit and dirt in some places, some orchestral accompaniment in others – into their usually super-clean production. Big fan.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:21 pm
I can understand that. For me they were hit or meh prior to steak night. Steak night was a really good album. It got my attention and Mike and The Moonpies became one of my favorites. This album is on a whole nother level. It is an incredible album that the band should be really proud of.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:40 pm
Not fair to compare with Country Squire, or pit either artist against the other (they’re both great), but an important comparison to make nonetheless.
On the one hand you’ve got a scrappy but tight AF unit taking a big risk and succeeding, and on the other hand you’ve got one of the most hyped names in the scene playing it safe, taking few risks, neglecting to even use his own band (a huge mistake), and coming up short as a result. Don’t mean to sound harsh, just my opinion.
This was a clever release strategy on the Moonpies’ part (assuming they did it consciously).
I think they knew they had a winner on their hands and knew the inevitable comparisons would serve them well. That and doing Pickathon same day, knowing there’d be buzz. Country Squire will outsell Cheap Silver by leaps and bounds, helping launch bigger tours and bigger fame and fortune for Tyler, but Cheap Silver will win hearts and minds, and attain longevity in ways Country Squire won’t.
August 5, 2019 @ 2:32 pm
I’m not sure if the Moonpies released this to coincide with Childers. Maybe they did, but this would be a strange strategy, and running even a bigger risk of being overshadowed. But who knows? Could be a good way to prove they can run with the big boys I guess. But I think there’s a better chance The Moonpies and their management wanted it to coincide with a big festival appearance, which they had this week at Pickathon. I know to a lot of folks, Pickathon sounds like just some festival they’ve heard of in Portland, but it really is like the Newport Folk Fest of the West Coast. Appreciate that both the Moonpies and Tyler Childers played on the same day this year, and the same day they both released landmark records. I think we’ll be reflecting back on 8/2/2019 for years as a big moment.
August 6, 2019 @ 7:22 am
I agree. 99% sure they wanted to drop the album just hours prior to the Pickathon gig. Buuut, calculated or not (probably not), it helps that a lot of coverage and fan chatter for Tyler on Friday seemed to include a Moonpies mention too.
Your analogy about Country Squire being that birthday present you wanted and expected, vs. Cheap Silver being that winning lottery ticket you found on the ground by accident is perfect. Personally, I tend to appreciate the latter much more. Makes you think the universe is on your side, giving you a little reward.
August 6, 2019 @ 11:23 am
Most definitely. I’d say 1/4 of the comments I’ve seen here and on social media on the Tyler Childers album mentions The Moonpies too. That is pretty damn incredible, especially when you consider just how small The Moonpies are compared to Tyler Childers at the moment.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:10 pm
Nice review, Trigger. An excellent, if not gorgeous album from start to finish. Not the album we expected, but the album we needed. Though it seems totally out of left field sonically, Mike Harmeier and the band have shown serious musical range, expertise, and ballsiness from the start.
For example, on The Real Country (from 2010) Mike gave us a preview of his jazz-lounge crooner side with “Matrimony”, and on Mockingbird (from 2015) on “South First Blvd” they have a smooth jazz/yacht-rock saxophone. Now it’s strings from the London Symphony Orchestra? Why not?
When a band is simultaneously this this tight, this talented, and this unpretentious, they can take odd creative risks because there’s a better than average chance they’ll work – and if they don’t work, they probably had a fun time trying. I love these guys, and can’t wait to see/hear what’s next. Hope they tour the mid-Atlantic again soon (Baltimore or DC gig, with Carbone on keys? Do it guys!).
August 5, 2019 @ 2:42 pm
I second hoping they’ll play a Mid-Atlantic show and have Carbone back on keys. They are still amazing live, but something is definitely lost without the keys. Fingers crossed he’ll come out and play a show if they are near Annapolis.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:16 pm
Great write up. The album is short……but it is also great. Cheap Silver is the best song I’ve heard in a while. It’s perfect. Here’s to hoping they keep this momentum up.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:21 pm
This a great record in the same vein as Zeph Ohora’s: lots of deep genre knowledge and love.
“prevailing sentiments in east Nashville claim that country music is too restrictive creatively”
I’m more cynical. I think all they see is markets and potential cash, the fools.
“and that you must evolve from it if you want to be regarded as a real artist. Of course this overlooks just how expansive and omnivorous the country music genre is, how there are so many different eras and styles to explore”
Preach it, brother. This point cannot be made often enough.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:38 pm
I can’t believe I’m the only one who thinks this sounds like the kind of easy listening music my grandparents listened too. I’m bored out of my skull listening to this
August 5, 2019 @ 1:57 pm
Your grandparents were cool. You just didn’t know it at the time.
August 5, 2019 @ 3:19 pm
Your grandparents probably conceived your dad after several shots of fernet. I toast them.
August 5, 2019 @ 3:49 pm
Can we pause for a second to appreciate just how much of a badass Mike is to rhyme something with “Fernet”? I mean, of all the bullshit lines coming out of Music City lo these past few years, the bullshittiest of the lines have to do with drinking. How many of those college boy wankers ever had a proper “digestif” like Fernet, or Punt y Mes, or any of the other bitters that old Italian peasant men knock back so their bellies can process all that tasty fat in the meat course? Only a guy who goes fishing at 5 am with his dad stopping off at the cinder-block watering hole on the way so the old man can say hi to the frowny dude who sells him early morning vodka before putting on his waders has the required level of boredom to sample the strangers all lined up behind the bar.
Blake Shelton can only dream of singing a song with the word “Fernet” in it. Same goes for all those industry confections who sell songs as if they’re knick-knacks in some tourist trap franchise. I hope they enjoy their boutique beer as they try to sell their shit to people who know the value of a cold Coors at the end of a long day.
Mike is for them, and the “Moonpies,” which is probably too down-market a reference for Na$hville, now.
August 6, 2019 @ 5:37 am
I agree with you, I don’t think it’s good at all. I’m trying really hard to like it.
It’s funny to me that people are screaming that this is country but hollering that Chris Stapleton is nothing but R&B or Soul.
Easy listening is the perfect way to describe this.
August 6, 2019 @ 6:31 am
There it is lol…….you might could argue the first song isn’t “country”, and I’ll concede “young in love’ is more easy listening……BUT
How can you say the others aren’t? There are folks on this website that live to just say, “Ackshually that’s not really country”. Country music isn’t confined to 4 chords, a steel guitar, and a fiddle.
August 6, 2019 @ 8:21 am
Hey easy listening is easy listening, we don’t make the rules.
August 6, 2019 @ 7:36 am
I am not quite bored out of my skull but so far this is by far my least favorite Moonpies effort. I own all other of their records and have seen them three times (including once in Milwaukee before only 23 people) but don’t think this will be in my rotation. Maybe a few more listens will turn me but not doing it for me so far.
August 5, 2019 @ 1:44 pm
AOTY. It’s just so perfect from start to finish. Dripping with country/honky tonk soul.
I had these guys around the top of my second-tier favorite current artists, a full step behind Tyler Childers, Turnpike Troubadours, etc. But this record just blew me away. I don’t care that it’s only 8 songs; in fact, I think that makes it even better. Much like Jaime Wyatt’s Felony Blues, which was only 7 songs, it’s all awesome and no possum. There is an armadillo, though…
August 6, 2019 @ 3:43 pm
I likely have to agree with you here. I lived in Austin during its twilight years, when Mike and the Moonpies were still a house band at some honky tonks I used to frequent that now have cover charges and more Lululemon than pearl snaps, and I took them for granted. It was easy to, with how often you could go drink too much Cuervo and Shiner and spin around the latest girl you might accidentally marry if you’re not careful.
Unlike Turnpike and Childers, they never made me weep when I was alone or sit by my record player and stare off into space wondering why I didn’t think of that. With this album, I’ll be picking up a copy on vinyl and spinning it more often than Country Squire. Until Evan gets well, I’ll keep wearing grooves in my Turnpike back catalog, but I have a feeling ‘Cheap Silver’ will get some pretty deep grooves of its own this year. As an itinerant wanderer with little consistency in my life but a dog and whatever hardwood floor I can find, this is the album I needed.
Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold is one of those phrases so good that it feels like a cliche that’s always existed until you realize that these guys coined it and made a self-unserious honky tonk record at Abbey Road out of it.
P.S. I’m with all the Urban Cowboy references. Makes me think of Gene Watson and T.G. Sheppard for sure.
August 5, 2019 @ 2:20 pm
I’m digging the late 70s-early 80s Urban Cowboy vibe this album has. I can totally hear T.G. Sheppard or Mickey Gilley singing these songs during that era.
August 5, 2019 @ 2:40 pm
Yes MH, I too was hearing TG Shepherd! And the rest of the commenter’s here going, who’s TG Shepherd? Hah….
Good stuff though.
August 5, 2019 @ 7:57 pm
I just commented Danger reminds me of a Ronnie Milsap song.
August 5, 2019 @ 2:22 pm
All I can say is that you’re in for a massive treat when you see them live. In my opinion (full disclosure: I’m very biased), their live shows are simply amazing. There is an energy that permeates through a venue when they play that cannot be captured inside a studio.
One of the thing that sets the Moonpies apart from most every other band/artist in the business is that they are solid, down-to-earth guys. There’s always enough time for them to spend time with each and every fan. To me, this is a significant reason for their continual ascent — they’ve made genuine friends in every corner of the country they’ve played. So be sure to go say ‘hi’ to the guys.
Enjoy your show next month! I promise you will never forget it.
August 5, 2019 @ 5:57 pm
Completely agree with the thoughts on their live show. They blew everyone away with their sets at Mile0Fest in 2018 and again in 2019. If you like the Moonpies, you will love their live show.
August 6, 2019 @ 5:44 am
Thank you! It’s a free show, too, so I am hoping that they pick up a lot of new fans. I’m really hyped to see them.
August 5, 2019 @ 3:32 pm
Half the songs are great. The only half aren’t up to par.
August 5, 2019 @ 4:11 pm
CountryKnight, I say this with sincere and genuine affection: please remove the stick from your ass.
Here are my Happy Hour takes out here in the cornfields, where we’re having a solid run of beautiful summer weather by the way.
“Cheap Silver” is an anthem we can all believe, “You Look Good in Neon” is an instant country standard if I ever heard one, and “If You Want A Fool Around” is right down the middle honky tonk clever. “Danger” is a Waylon stomp, keeps the mood going, but it’s not cliche and has more fatherly advice than other father-to-son releases in recent memory. “Young In Love” is something Ray Price would’ve cut with some Buddy Emmons solo to take us to plastered-ville. Willie Nelson would love its chord changes on this tune, you could hear Trigger take a solo on it, and Willie would be happy to to sing the word “asteroid.” And “Miss Fortune”? Gambler tune, obligatory puns, great music to play, a solid 70s vibe, electric piano, incredible production value. “Fast as Lightning” is a fine touring complaint and has unimpeachable pedal steel in it. “London Homesick Blues” is a masterpiece by another guy, recorded *perfectly* here.
I’ve had a few because it’s after five, so take this in spirit: there is nothing on this record that is not Solid Country Gold.
I hope they all get rich and die fat and happy.
August 5, 2019 @ 3:56 pm
This is the band Midland is trying so hard to be. But unlike Midland, the Moonpies are the real deal and have been paying their dues for years. And the Moonpies dont have to wear ridiculous outfits, they just play bad ass country music you cant ignore.
Great album and great band. This album caught me off guard at first listen but in a good way. You can hear a lot of their influences in this album but they still keep that Moonpie sound.
August 5, 2019 @ 5:23 pm
WT, SHHHHHH… yer gonna offend Honky…don’t wake him….he hasn’t yet logged in here to tell us how much Mike and The Pies suck and that they aren’t country and the vocals are bad and they are in fact urbanite hipsters masquerading as a C(c)ountry band!
August 5, 2019 @ 6:16 pm
Good one…that’s fucking funny!
Yep, agree Mike & the Moonpies are the real deal. True artistic integrity. Love these guys.
August 6, 2019 @ 9:36 am
I liked your comment,
I won’t begrudge Midland their success, as I take it as a sign that the market is willing to move that direction, which is good news for bands like the Moonpies.
August 6, 2019 @ 10:31 am
That’s a good point you make, I can’t disagree. I just hate the story line Midland has fabricated and are selling to their fans. I know, if you don’t like, don’t buy it or listen. I guess it could be worse. And yes, because of Midlands success, it can only be good for bands like the Moonpies.
I feel Midland is the spinal tap of country music. At any moment, one of them could spontaneously combust and be replaced by the next one in line.
August 6, 2019 @ 12:01 pm
It could happen if their stylist turns their suits to 11.
August 6, 2019 @ 2:19 pm
I say Midland are to country what The Darkness (the “I Believe in A Thing Called Love” band) are to rock n’ roll, and Steel Panther are to metal. A prefabricated band, albeit with some chops, calculatedly packaged and promoted to amplifying all the familiar tropes of their genre. The clothes, the videos, the sounds. It’s like comfort food for people who don’t know much, or invest much, in the genre but want to dip their toes in it.
August 6, 2019 @ 2:58 pm
Exactly. “Midland” is suburbia’s country fantasy.
August 8, 2019 @ 4:37 am
Except Steel Panther is meant to be a caricature. No one, not even themselves takes them seriously. Midland is promoted as if they are the real deal.
August 6, 2019 @ 2:42 pm
Regarding the outfits, I do have to say the Moonpies always look badass onstage. They’re not wearing ridiculous rhinestone Nudie suits like Midland or anything, but they definitely put some effort into their outfits. After all, Mike proudly declares “I dress like 1982” on “Mockingbird.” That takes some effort. Dude wears more retro shirts and faded denim than Yoakam. Omar too, a ladies favorite judging from the crowd reaction I witnessed.
I love that these guys put some thought into their image, and look like they’re having fun with it. Cannot stand a band that don’t dress the part for a gig. Of course it all means nothing if they aren’t backing it up with actual talent, which the Moonpies have in spades.
I saw a rock band recently do an opening set (can’t even remember their name), grown ass men, and they were all literally wearing t-shirts, cargo shorts, athletic shoes, and white tube socks. Like, you couldn’t look in the mirror before going to the gig? I’m not trying to pay money to see a band dressed up like the average 8th grader.
August 5, 2019 @ 5:37 pm
The title track is the first song I have heard in a long, long time that I can put on repeat and keep enjoying. It really is solid country gold, in the truest sense. I have always been a honky-tonk guy first and foremost and always shied away from the countrypolitan stuff. I tip my hat to the Moonpies for showing just how awesome countrypolitan can be. Figures a honky-tonk band would get the job done right.
August 5, 2019 @ 6:40 pm
I really enjoyed this, but I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone in the comments talking about how it’s “not really country”. Some of the songs are undeniably country, but a few seem more like country flavored classic pop, sort of Sinatra by way of Texas. That’s not a problem for me, but I’m not a country purist by any means. Also their rendition of “London Homesick Blues” is the best I’ve heard excluding the Gary P. Nunn original. I love the way they made this version a bit meloncholy.
August 5, 2019 @ 6:57 pm
There are always turds on this site saying something isn’t really country. I just chuckle at their ridiculous parameters.
This album is country as fuck and perfect. I love it. And I love this band.
August 5, 2019 @ 7:55 pm
I am so sick of hearing London Homesick Blues! When I turn on the Outlaw station, I know I’ll be hearing someone’s version with the hour. But, this version, although expected, is fresh.
August 5, 2019 @ 8:28 pm
I almost never hear LHB in the wild since I rarely listen to radio, so I’m not quite sick of it yet. Even still, I was surprised at how much I loved the Moonpies’ rendition. It’s one of my favorite country songs ever, and they more than did it justice.
August 5, 2019 @ 8:40 pm
I made a comment in the first article Trigger reported about the album. I feel this album has a Rusty Wier vibe to it, almost like a tribute to him and the cosmic cowboy sound. Theres a line in Black Hat Saloon about silver and gold and how music was. While not all those songs during that time were “country” sounding, they were well written songs played by really good musicians. Heck, that movement spawned the outlaw movement. Not trying to get historical and make it sound like its “outlaw”. But I feel they captured a sound that is more of a nod to their influences and past artist from Texas. There was some really groovy stuff during the 70s from some of the best known country artist from Austin.
Without knowing why they went this route with this album, I can hear the influences from past. I think they nailed the sound and still kept it orginal.
August 6, 2019 @ 5:42 am
To quote another commenter
“It’s easy listening”
August 6, 2019 @ 9:40 am
Yup. Does everything need to be hard listening?
August 9, 2019 @ 2:51 pm
It’s definitely country, but country is a broad church. It’s like how, if you go back to the ’60s and ’70s, you’ve got Johnny Cash with just guitar, bass and drums, Marty Robbins doing western songs and pop, George Jones signing in front of strings and backing vocals, Willie Nelson stripping it right down on Red Headed Stranger.
A few of the songs remind me of the late, great Charlie Rich.
August 5, 2019 @ 7:06 pm
Mike and the Moonpies meet The Nashville Sound.
It reminds me of the songs on my Mother’s radio when I was growing up.
Some people may not get it.
It was a bold choice but you can still hear them in it.
I realy like If You Want A Fool Around.
August 5, 2019 @ 7:53 pm
I think the real comparison should be/ will be “Country Squire” and Cody Jinks’ “Lifers.” Both first albums released on a major. It seems like it didn’t work for Jinks as he retreats back to independence. Major life is treating Childers well so far. Many friends messaged me Friday morning that Childers auto populated into their streaming platforms. That’s life in the major lane. Also, Friday was the first time in my life I didn’t buy something or download something or get a promo in all my life. That’s life in the streaming age.
What would have happened if it was announced that Mike and the Moonpies were flying to London to record and album with the symphony? Everyone would have judged it and went into the project with preconceived notions. It was best delivered as a surprise. But you are correct, we’ll see how we feel about this album when the novelty wears off.
I can’t help but think this was the album Ashley Monroe was trying to record (last year?).
“Danger” reminds me of a Ronnie Milsap song.
Why are people ok with strings and not horns in their country music?
August 5, 2019 @ 8:19 pm
Many good points here. I agree. Mike and the Moonpies announce their intentions, and they get dragged even worse that Tyler Childers was for numerous things ahead of “Country Squire.”
I don’t think the last Ashley Monroe record was terrible, but it definitely felt like they didn’t have a plan beyond embellishing everything with strings. It didn’t feel collaborative. This record did.
I’m okay with horns as long as it’s done right. Bob Willis is still the king.
August 6, 2019 @ 1:41 pm
Trig, how about this use of horns: https://youtu.be/G5OjmO8W7M8
Or would this style not be considered a subset of Country in TX?
August 5, 2019 @ 9:00 pm
Agreed. A surprise release was the way to go on this one, otherwise expectations and pressure (not to mention the trash talking from fans) would’ve been way too high.
When I talked to Adam Odor at a Moonpies gig earlier this year about the album, one of the few things he mentioned was that they were waiting on some “guests” to contribute and/or record their parts. The album seemed to be in flux, and possibly delayed, at the time.
Makes me wonder if they got what they wanted for the finished product, or if they had to scale back on the original concept. I think the guest appearances we know about are very minor, and mixed very subtly. Barely there at all.
Looking forward to some interviews with the band, and would love some behind the scenes video of the conceptual phase and recording sessions, showing us how this all went down.
August 6, 2019 @ 11:54 am
FYI – New article/Q&A with Mike Harmeier, with a lot of great insight into the concept and recording process of the new album, on Austin360.com today.
August 6, 2019 @ 6:57 am
Sometimes I wish all album releases were more surprises, maybe one single, but not dribbling out the release over time. It dilutes the impact and just gives wrong impressions and preconceived notions.
Lucette’s album turned out to be in my opinion just perfect (if not country) but I cringed when that first single was released. It ended up fitting nicely in the album but not representative of the whole at all.
I may be one of a few people on here who really loved Ashley Monroe’s last album. I think the problem was more in marketing since it fell in some kind of genre crack. I don’t think it was trying to be country at all, and was just gorgeous music.
I am thinking more along the lines of this is the album Springsteen tried and failed to make. By the way, he made the mistake of releasing the best track first and it seemed all downhill from there.
August 6, 2019 @ 7:44 am
When I was younger in the early 90’s, as a teenage music fan but not the total music geek I am today, albums always seemed like a surprise. All we had was the radio, and maybe MTV, but more often than not you’d go to the music store and take a gamble on your purchase. You had no idea, maybe besides that big single, what it’d sound like until you listened at home.
Now, we’ve got unlimited access to everything all the time, with singles, and live videos, and detailed press releases dropped months in advance, with what seems like an eternity to ponder, and stew, and split hairs, and build up unattainable expectations for an album you can stream and break down immediately upon release.
Inevitably that album will clash with your preconceived notions and some of the magic just won’t be there. It’s a shame, so yeah, it’d be great if bands would at the very least shorten the amount of wait time between the first single and full album release, or just drop the thing by surprise altogether. Much more fun that way.
I was online late-night last Thursday by chance and picked up the Moonpies chatter about something happening at midnight, so I literally heard the album starting at 12:01am. Will never forget those first violin stabs on “Cheap Silver” and thinking “whoa, this is gonna be something special.”
August 6, 2019 @ 10:47 am
I never want to go back to the music store days! Do you know how many I’d have visit to purchase the music I liked because it wasn’t in stock anywhere in Western PA! Mike and the Moonpies wouldn’t have been on the shelves within a 1,500 mile radius. I do not miss those days. I wake up and the music is now ready for me to listen to. I love it. The whole going to the music store was a waste of time.
August 6, 2019 @ 11:09 am
Growing up in the DC area as a teen, I spent a lot of time in music stores. Hours upon hours, scoping the aisles looking for good stuff, figuring out how to spend that summer job, birthday, and xmas money. I’d take the bus or subway and make a day of it.
It was a lot of fun, and I don’t regret it, but I do regret making a lot of dumb album purchases because I didn’t really know what they’d sound like. Then again, I made some cool surprise purchases too.
Talk about record stores not stocking Mike and The Moonpies, outside of roadside gas and rest stops in TX or country specialty shops, nobody carries their stuff. Even Amazon doesn’t stock their albums in physical form (at least not currently). A lot of big Moonpies fans here, but they’re virtual unknowns outside a very small niche market, especially in the North East.
EW in DFW
August 5, 2019 @ 8:44 pm
Got my ticket for Saturday night in Ft. Worth. Will be my 3rd time seeing them and I’ll pick up the album then. They are great live!
August 6, 2019 @ 4:21 am
“True country fans are used to getting their hearts broken by their favorite artists when they eventually grow bored of country or their original sound, and go venturing off into who knows what, be damned what established fans think, if not to purposely trying to piss them off in some misguided notion about that’s what true “artists” do.”
Hmmmmm…..you and your boy finally breaking up Trig? lol
As stated before, I don’t disagree with the comment… just made me laugh.
August 6, 2019 @ 11:29 am
I’m guessing you mean Sturgill Simpson as “my boy.” I think I’ve discussed Sturgill and his country/non country thing pretty in depth here. But this really doesn’t have to do with Sturgill specifically. It mostly involves artists residing in east Nashville. They show up to town wanting to be country artists, and then are told by peers that you can’t be creative in country and they should release indie rock and call it Americana. It’s an extremely, extremely predictable cycle that I could cite scores of examples of, and is being fed by the media that equates genre with institutionalized racism.
August 6, 2019 @ 11:45 am
I understand. Just with the endless comments regarding Sturgill going rock around here I just got a laugh out of that comment. Like I said above, I don’t disagree with your comment. I am sure you know a shit load more examples than I could ever come up with.
BTW, listened to this album few more times and like it more and more. Not coming off my original concern of how they bleed some of this sound into live shows but if anyone can figure it out, based on the two times I have seen them, M&MP will make it work in some sort of badass way.
August 6, 2019 @ 4:55 am
This album is one delicious listen. In a world of too much good music to listen to all of it, this band steps it up with a bit of sophistication to their lyrics, and sweetened by bringing a little Western sound back to Country. “You Look Good In Neon” has been stuck in my head for a couple weeks, makes me want to go two-stepping across a hardwood floor. And that’s a good thing. Call me a fan.
August 6, 2019 @ 7:17 am
I just don’t get these guys. Steak Night was ok, but didn’t blow me away. I got about 4 songs into this one and turned it off. Bored to tears.
August 6, 2019 @ 8:06 am
You ought to at least listen to their cover of London Homesick Blues. While I mostly enjoyed this record, I completely understand being bored by it, but that song is a staple for a reason and they do a killer rendition of it.
August 6, 2019 @ 10:25 am
I get why they included a cover of London Homesick Blues, but that is the only track I don’t care for. There are some songs I just don’t need to hear again. West End Girls by The Pet Shop Boys would have been a better, less trite, ode to the city. Plus, it would have fit the vibe better and made better use of the orchestra.
August 6, 2019 @ 10:37 am
Strike that Pet Shop Boys reference. I meant Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty.
August 6, 2019 @ 9:53 am
Yeah, Lincoln Logs were an epic fail because they lacked battery compartments.
August 6, 2019 @ 10:13 am
This is thinking outside the box. I really like it. They are now the inheritors of the “progressive country” label. Its like Mickey Newbury and Jeff Lynne took over a Texas dance hall.
August 6, 2019 @ 10:36 am
Ok, I am sufficiently ashamed for not being able to spot the 2nd “well-recognized” cover song.
August 6, 2019 @ 11:20 am
“Young in Love” is a cover of Aaron Sinclair.
August 7, 2019 @ 11:24 am
Not familiar with Aaron Sinclair. Trying to find audio/video of the original. Can’t find any. Can you point the way?
August 6, 2019 @ 4:33 pm
Very, very interesting and quite appealing to my ears. Sounding like a sort-of “county-ELO” to me (and I notice a previous commenter has made a Jeff Lynne reference, rather stealing my thunder).
August 7, 2019 @ 5:25 am
Lots of talk about the gorgeous instrumentation, but can we throw Mike Harmeier a bone for some great vocal work? Much improved since the first album almost a decade ago. I love when a band fires on all cylinders like this. Not a weak link in the group.
August 8, 2019 @ 8:20 am
Yes I waited a few days and many many spins to chime in on this one. I wanted to let the majesty sink in as well as reading everyone’s thoughts. Being that I’m 58 years old as was said above by someone this album just drips of the 70’s sound. Songs like these were the norm when I was 13. As a young teen I was also a huge ELO fan always thinking Jeff Lynne was a genius as I listen to this like someone above said this is actually The Electric Moonpie Orchestra and it’s incredible. Listen to the song Showdown from 1973, “Danger” has that vibe. The turn of the phrase “If You Want a Fool Around” is lyrical genius as is “You Look Good in Neon”. Another thing is most of these songs will stand perfectly live minus the lush strings. One other thing I said to Mike is “someday when you’re bigger I’m gonna tell people I saw you in a place this small” he laughed and said “I hope so”. I can’t wait for the CD to come, never so happy to give an artist my money when they deliver the goods. Trig is right I shouldn’t compare this album to Tyler’s. It’s not fair because I love the Moonpies music so much more. On an off topic note Whitey’s in town tomorrow night finally playing my home away from home Joe’s Live. If anyone wants to make the drive tickets are still available so come on out!!
August 8, 2019 @ 4:01 pm
Saw Whitey and the 78’s earlier this year during a trip to NYC – highlight of my visit and one of the best concerts I’ve been to. There was a metal/punk guy in the bathroom after the show saying it was his first country concert and was raving about how amazing it was. Totally agree. Going to the Atlanta and Charlotte shows soon.
August 9, 2019 @ 9:29 pm
JB – I too grew up in the same era as you and you’re right on the money with your assessment. I saw Jeff Lynn’s ELO back on July 3rd and those songs are just as impacting 40+ years after they’re airwaves heyday. I say the same of this Moonpies opus…40 years from now (if we’re still upright) you can put this on and it will resonate just like the first time hearing it. Perfection!
August 9, 2019 @ 3:06 pm
Listened to this on Spotify and will definitely be buying a physical copy when I get the chance. I’ve had You Look Good In Neon stuck in my head all day.
Regarding what you said about people feeling they can’t be creative within the bounds of country music (an attitude Mike and The Moonpies and Tyler Childers both seem to reject, thankfully), I don’t get it. The potential for writing great new songs within this genre is limitless.
August 13, 2019 @ 5:37 am
After several more listens, I’m struck by the subtlety in the vocals and music. They know exactly when enough is enough and there are layers of nuance that you might find in s Steely Dan album. Really cool.