When rattling off a list of the most hard charging, unapologetic honky-tonk Outlaw country bands out there who tour until it hurts, don’t know when to quit, and will kick your teeth in with their live show, The Piedmont Boys based out of South Carolina never receive their fair share of recognition. Arguably the most underrated and overlooked band in the Outlaw country realm, if you like Whitey Morgan and artists of that ilk, and music that reminds you of Waylon and Merle, these guys must be in your rotation.
Doing it now for over a decade and led by frontman Greg Payne, The Piedmont Boys have just released their latest album Almost Home, and it’s chock full of good times, drinking songs, and stories inspired from being out on the road. Piedmont Boys devotees will promise to you that nobody brings the party like these dudes. Like your favorite local band no matter where they’re playing, they’re just a fun group of guys that are down to earth, easy too root for, will rock your face off on stage, and then clink beers with you afterwards like your best friends. This blue collar approach to being a country band is captured in this new record.
Unlike some other Outlaw bands, the boys from the Piedmont don’t hinge their sound on the twang of the steel, but on the hot lead guitar licks of Stuart McConnell, and on the bow the band’s secret weapon, fiddler Matt Parks, who might be one of the best honky tonk fiddlers in the business. This makes The Piedmont Boys unique in hard country circles by bringing a little bit of that Blue Ridge and bluegrass influence into their music.
If you’re looking for a good entry point with The Piedmont Boys, Almost Home is as good as any, if for no other reason that it starts off with their signature song, “Rice Beans.” You may ask, “Wait, how could a new song be their signature?” Well, The Piedmont Boys are so synonymous with this song (and for good reason, ’cause it’s a banger), they’ve released more records with a rendition of it than they haven’t. In fact “Rice Beans” was the lead track off their 2008 debut album too. Then it appeared again on their 2015 record Scars & Bars, then again on 2016’s All On Red. So yeah, at this point it’s not just a track, it’s a tradition.
There’s a second song on Almost Home called “In Came You” that’s so good it may start a tradition too. This song was first sent to Saving Country Music via the Mikele Buck Band out of North Carolina in late 2019, and immediately went onto the Top 25 Playlist. Written by Greg Payne with Todd Allmon, Wyatt Durrette, and Cory Hunt, the song is so good and instantly classic, you swear you’ve heard it somewhere before. It’s a perfect combination of originality and familiarity that goes into making a great country song.
Almost Home is part The Piedmont Boys keeping the party going and still being your good time buddies, but it’s also being willing to grow old with their music. It’s not just about the wild wonder of leaving on the road anymore, it’s also about the joy of returning home. It’s not as much about the women you meet in the honky tonks and bars, but the ones waiting for you back at home.
Written mostly by the band as a collective, they also record Bleu Edmonson’s “50 Dollars and a Flask of Crown” along with a couple of other covers. And though The Piedmont Boys are one of those bands that will always struggle to recreate the energy they bring live in the studio setting simply because they’re just so raucous on stage, listening through a song like “Wrong Turns” gives you a real good idea how they can rip into a song and make it come alive for an audience, including those tight little multi-note runs, elongations, and stops that only a band whose played a million shows together can pull off with ease.
Uncorrupted by massive fame, and completely uninterested in chasing trends—whether in mainstream country or hipster Americana—The Piedmont Boys are a pure Carolina version of Outlaw country that honky tonk fans all around the world should be spinning.
1 1/2 Guns Up