Album Review – The Shootouts – “Bullseye”

photo: Jamie Escola

The Shootouts are Ohio’s preeminent throwback Golden-era classic country band that looks to put a smile on your face, a rhythm to your step, and a fullness in your heart with their well-written original songs rendered in a vintage style, backed by slick country instrumentation, and bolstered here on their second record Bullseye by the legendary Chuck Mead as producer.

When we talk about “throwback” country, don’t think 1992. Think post WW2-era black and white movie-style country that fits well at Nashville’s American Legion Post 82 down to the embroidery adorning their Western wear. The Shootouts are here to swell the nostalgia inside of you and call back to the formative era of popular country music, but with songs that touch themes and sentiments still relevant to today.

To be honest, this band came across as a little bit hit and miss to this set of ears with their first record from 2019, Quick Draw. The great songs were great, and presented excellent examples of early era country in the modern context. But as is the bane of many of these throwback bands, sometimes the songs can be a bit hokey, and a few of their tracks felt a little too sappy. It’s probably fair to say some of those same concerns will persist for certain listeners during this new set of songs as well.

But listening through Bullseye and really paying attention to the effort, love, and astuteness these guys and gal bring to this album, it’s hard not to root for them. They draw upon every ounce of their talent and skill to make country music the way they believe it should be made, and make the most of their inspirations and their studious obsession with the modes of classic country song making.

It’s songs like “Here Come The Blues,” “Waiting On You,” “I Still Care,” “Forget to Forget,” and others that are familiar as themes of old country songs, but are revitalized by fresh perspectives. Meanwhile song after song, the pickin’ and sawin’ really stands out on this one, with great interplay between the instruments and smart arrangements on each tune with the twang turned up to 10.

There’s no shaving off corners or soft-peddling going on here. Bullseye is Country with a capital ‘C’, and just like with their first record, the title track is an instrumental, which allows the players to stretch out and show off a little bit, and they take full advantage of it. Each note even down to the bass and drums is right in line, respectful of the classic country art, and artistic in its rendering in a way that’s enjoyably timeless, perhaps best illustrated in the album’s final track “Saturday Night Town.”

Let’s call it like it is: this is country music for throwback hipsters and Ameripolitan cats who feel uncomfortable in the modern era and wish everything hearkened back to a simpler time. Some might see this as more of a period piece and not for them. But for those who it is for, The Shootouts and and Bullseye are fire.

1 1/2 Guns Up (7.5/10)

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