If you can’t get enough of the country rock sound of bands like the Turnpike Troubadours, and also want your country music served up with a strong songwriting element, the new album from the Teague Brothers Band called Love and War will be right up your alley.
There is a reason that when Evan Felker of the Turnpike Troubadours decided to make his return to the stage before Turnpike officially reunited, it was with the Teague Brothers behind him. And if the 5+ year lapse in new Turnpike Troubadours material has you in the throes of withdrawal shakes, Love and War just might be your fix.
Primary songwriter and frontman John Teague is a U.S. Army/Iraq War veteran who runs a small ranch and construction business in Winnie, TX—the home of Larry’s Old Time Trade Days and not much else except cattle ranches and such, just a stone’s throw away from the Texas coast. But don’t think of this as a local/weekend warrior project.
The Teague Brothers Band has traveled all across Texas playing shows, and as Love and War attests, they have the chops and songwriting to be compared right beside anyone in Texas and beyond. In fact, you might not find a better candidate for a band currently sliding more criminally under-the-radar at the moment than the Teague Brothers.
John Teague’s sense of melody, the attack of the fiddle, the growl of the lead guitar, and the little rhythmic pauses really do remind you of the best of the Turnpike Troubadours. But the stories of the Teague Brothers are all their own, and the more imaginative approach of the production sets them apart. Love and War starts off with the song “I Found Trouble”—a song about a a poor boy punching above his weight class with a classy girl, set to music perfect for soundtracking a Saturday night.
But that’s about where the good times end. Love and War is an emotionally roiling, and at times, deeply-personal record encapsulating those intimate moments in our lives that get memory banked more potently than most. In the second song “These Days” about having to put down one of your most cherished animals, it makes it tough to choke back all those Old Yeller tears. As a rancher, you know a song like this comes from John Teague’s personal experience.
The Teague Brothers Band chronicle the tribulations of the working man and the broken-hearted better than most. “Pipeliner” about a cocaine snorting oil worker really puts you in the shoes of the burden so many laborers carry in their souls as the work is back breaking, and the pay is never enough.
The production of the album handled by Scott Faris and Chris Reynolds really is exquisite, possibly best exemplified by the intro and outtro to the haunting “Moscato Wine.” This is one of those albums where all stops are pulled out, all extra efforts are expended to make sure what the Teague Brothers Band do is flattered and fairly portrayed for those too far flung to see them perform in Texas. They may not be selling out arenas and theaters, but Love and War captures a sound that deserves it.
It’s fair to say that at certain times, some of the songwriting could have used another pass or two—where the same word is rhymed with itself, or the words are not rhymed at all. And by the time you get to a song like “Buckskin Gelding,” which sounds almost exactly like “Before The Devil Knows We’re Dead” by the Turnpike Troubadours, the similarity of the styles seems a little less uncanny, and a little too much like imitation.
But there are much worse things than sounding like the Turnpike Troubadours. With the Teague Brothers Band, the stories are real and resonant, the music is reverberative, and on Love and War, they make a more than compelling case of why they should be included in national narratives about some of the best country bands out there, beyond the cattle ranches of coastal Texas, and the college bars of Lubbock.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8.3/10)
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