The Broken Spokes. Photo: Courtesy of Artist/Facebook
It might be hard to believe, but there was a time when country music was actually palatable. Growing up in the seventies, when a tug of war began between traditional country music, and the beginning of this new flashy crap we’re stuck with today; my favorite memories were catching small time country acts play honky tonks with my parents. For the longest time, it’s felt like those traditional country tunes and the style in which they were crafted would never return. Then, I listened to the new album from Houston’s The Broken Spokes and realized—-it’s back and this five piece is bringing it back in a big way. Throughout eight tracks, “The Broken Spokes” brings back traditional country music like it was meant to be played without copying anyone in the process.
Things kick off with a traditional barrel necked guitar before the pedal steel glides onto the track and Brent McLennan’s twangy vocals roll in on “Friday Night Special.” The traditional feel of the drums in the background of the mix with the vocals and guitar up front take you back to a simpler time, while the chorus makes you look for a dance partner. When the guitar solo hops on it snakes like a crooked politician that doesn’t deter from the Texas swing nature of the song’s pace. They follow this with a traditional country ballad on “Moved Into A Bottle.” Complete with brush stroke beats from drummer Rajiv Groove and a pedal steel that’s closer to a sheriff’s siren from Willy T. Golden, the song keeps things light while still holding those honky tonk lyrics in tact.
The snappy speed of the third track, “Gone, Gone, Gone,” hearkens to a Summertime social where you get fed with a jazzy piano from Josh Artall. The song is strong and full of traditional country music themes, but at a little over the two minute mark things come to a close as quickly as they began. The band mixes things up a bit a couple of songs later on “Cloud Full of Rain,” where the song has a moderate speed, and mixes ballad and slow dance structures. The bonus of the song’s moderate speed means that you can enjoy the thick stand-up bass from Kevin Skrla before the speed picks up and all of the instruments come in like a honky tonk orchestra. The biggest bonus of this band is how versatile they are together, which really shines on “All The Same.” Piano and pedal steel dance alongside one another while guitar holds things together with McLennan’s vocals. When the pedal steel and the piano take their respective solos, they don’t stray from the intent of the song and they remind you of the simplicity of small town America. If you aren’t hooked by the acoustic guitar that opens “That’s The Way It Goes,” then you aren’t a fan of country music. The Texas swing feel of the song is closer to a tune from Hank Thompson than anything on current country radio, and if those station’s knew good music, this song would be in heavy rotation.
They close things off with the soft-natured and “happy go lucky” sounds of “Love Ain’t Around.” Though the track keeps in line from the bulk of the album, it’s still definitely another sound that these five have no problem portraying. There’s so much nostalgia on this album, that you wish for the past, or at least someone to dance alongside. In eight tracks The Broken Spokes take the listener back to when country music wasn’t about looking like a boy band member in a hat and boots, while the catchiness of the songs make you want to play the album again and again. You can catch The Broken Spokes at Big Top on Thursday April 28th, or at the Madness on Main Street Festival on May 7th. No matter where you see these guys, get ready to get your dance on. Because when you honk the honk the way that The Broken Spokes tonk the tonk, you’re bound to have plenty of people dancing.