As if true country music fans didn’t have enough on their plates Friday (8-2) with Tyler Childers releasing a new record Country Squire, formidable Texas honky tonk outfit Mike and the Moonpies came out of left field with a new record of their own, completely by surprise both in its arrival, and in its approach.
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London with producer Adam Odor, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold finds the Moonpies mixing their dancehall numbers with the more delicate and refined style of country music indicative of the Countrypolitan era of the 60’s and 70’s, complete with the London Philharmonic playing behind them.
“Every time we’ve taken a step forward, it’s a result of us refusing to become stagnant,” says front man Mike Harmeier. “We left our dancehall residencies years ago because we wanted to expand our touring beyond Texas. We updated our approach with ‘Mockingbird,’ then went back to a more traditional sound—in a 1970s, Johnny Paycheck-inspired way—with ‘Steak Night at the Prairie Rose.’ 10 years into our career, we’re still finding our voice… and we’re realizing that maybe it’s not one voice, but a collection of voices.”
The 8-song album is also more of a collaborative effort compared to the band’s previous records.
“Everyone had a hand in the creation process, from start to finish,” says Harmeier, who shares co-writing credits with multiple Moonpies throughout the album. “I usually come to the table with all the songs already written, but this album is entirely different. We worked on everything together. It was the most collaborative thing we’ve ever done. It was truly the work of a band.”
Those collaborators include pedal steel player Zach Moulton, guitarist Catlin Rutherford, bassist Omar Oyoque, drummer Kyle Ponder, and keyboardist John Carbone, who hasn’t been touring with the band recently, but still remains part of the band’s extended family. Cameos on the record include Nikki Lane on the song “Miss Fortune,” Shooter Jennings on “Danger,” and Season Ammons shows up on a cover of Gary P. Nunn’s iconic Texas anthem “London Homesick Blues.” Aaron Sinclair’s “Young in Love” is also covered on the record.
Mike and the Moonpies dropped the album at midnight Eastern time late Thursday/early Friday, moments before they took the stage at the Pickathon Festival in Portland, Oregon to play a rousing set for the festival’s Galaxy Barn crowd. Mixing in a few new songs with their more raucous country music material that had Saving Country Music naming them the best live act in 2018, it primed the pump for them to take the main stage Friday afternoon to once again wow a crowd of appreciative and influential music fans.
“Thank you so much for making us feel at home in Oregon,” Mike Harmeier said to the Pickathon audience. “We felt so at home we dropped a new record on you. Tyler [Childers] has a new one out too.”
Childers is scheduled to take the stage both Friday and Saturday evening as one of Pickathon’s primary 2019 headliners.
During their main stage set, Mike and the Moonpies played their first single from the new record, “You Look Good in Neon,” and the new song “Danger,” which Mike told the crowd was inspired by his young son. Originally word had trickled down that the band would play Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold in its entirety during their main stage set at Pickathon. But they chose to forgo that plan to put on an A1 performance for a crowd that mostly had never heard of the band before.
Pickathon is known not just entertaining crowds of music fans in the Pacific Northwest, but helping to launch careers. Sturgill Simpson and his manager directly attribute the beginning of his ascent to a set he played with his original band Sunday Valley at Pickathon in 2011. The Avett Brothers, Lake Street Dive, and other bands also cite the festival as their launching pad.
Whether Pickathon will have the same effect for Mike and the Moonpies remains to be seen, but you may want to remember the date 8/2/2019 as the time Mike and the Moonpies had their “moment.” They certainly put together the performances to justify whatever buzz they receive coming out of Pickathon. But perhaps most importantly, they might have dropped a surprise album that could eventually turn out to be their big breakout. Where better to put it all together than at the Pickathon Festival.
Saving Country Music will have a proper album review for ‘Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold’ in the coming days, as well as more coverage from the 2019 Pickathon Music Festival.