I have no way to start this review except by saying, I love Honky Tonk. I freakin’ love it. I love that classic rock n’ roll, Elvis mixed with Johnny Cash sound, and there is nothing better than when an album is mixed to replicate the vintage tone that my dad’s old vinyl spit out. Unfortunately, Eddy Blake and the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers’ record, HTHB, does not do any justice to that vintage, treble-sounding, AM radio feel.
The opening track, “Good Old Boys,” is the abrupt start to the album. It’s abrupt in every sense of the word, but specifically a highlight of how instantly you are thrown into the mess. This track really showcases how to take a great song and turn it into a disaster when recording. I’ll break it down for you. When those classic rock n’ roll artists I mentioned earlier (Elvis, Johnny Cash, etc.) recorded their tracks, they used those really cool-looking microphones (the silver ones you see in all those period movies). Those microphones are key, because they naturally have high mid-range frequencies and that creates that iconic sound. In the case of this record, it sounds like they just distorted the vocals in an attempt to recreate that. It didn’t work.
The instruments on their own really hold true to that rusty 50s feel, especially in the tracks “Love Me Baby,” “Hot Rod Car,” and “Lonely Like Me,” but the moment the vocals come in, everything that was great about the track gets muddied in a clash of sound. “Love Me Baby,” for example, has a great guitar riff that has a beach-like vibe, and I really dig it. Seriously, it is my favourite track on this record and, despite the recording, I still listened to it five times. It’s the kind of track that you can twist to on the beach with a bee-hive hairdo while drinking some sort of cocktail out of one of these. It has this really nice, almost doo-wop backing vocal in it which, again, I really dig. It has all the brilliance of Honky Tonk, even that characteristic back and forth swish drumming on the high hat. Seriously, this record is actually freakin’ awesome, but I can’t in good conscience let the production quality slide. The whole amazingness of the music gets lost when everything is played together with the vocals. You should still be able to hear each voice on its own, even when they are all singing. It shouldn’t just blend together into a distorted mess.
Eddy Blake and the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers is definitely on my live show list this year. If they stop by my little city I will be checking them out, because the music is solid and something to groove to. This is why it kills me to write this. I wish that this was mixed better, it just falls so far flat on that scale that it almost ruins the whole record for me. This is why I’d be stoked to see what the quality live would be like. I can see myself thoroughly enjoying a whiskey while jamming to HTHB live. I highly suggest that you take yourself out to see them, because if the music can blast through the editing on this record, they are worth seeing in person.
Written by Danielle Kenedy
*edited by Kate Erickson