Friday, 19 July 2013

The O's - Thunderdog

Album review by

The O’s got me off to a good start, for I think that 'Thunderdog' has to be the best album title of the year so far. And my 7 year-old son has been using it as his greeting exclamation since hearing the album. 'Thunderdog' cracks us off with 'Outlaw', and here The O's set out their template. 'Outlaw' is a rousing, hoe-down stomp of a song, which has a delightful touch that will get you moving. This is roots music. Roots of all music; it has a rare freshness to it that is brought by the use of just a handful of instruments, all delivered with a true passion. Yes there is a banjo, no this isn't some bandwagon-jumping, this is music that The O's have been making for at least five years. Instead of standing in the Mumford shadow and giving us a forgettable series of sub folk-rock anthems, The O's stand out.

'Dallas' is more restrained in its pace, with some deft slide giving the song a rich country feel. After that great double opener of songs we are brought into 'You Are The light' with a perfectly plucked banjo and a vocal that sounds as if was laid down in a room in some great southern plantation mansion. The whole song inhabits a sultry graceful feel. Encapsulating that hot, slow summer's day. 'Go With Me' takes you "down to the river" and has careless sense of joy; a rush of sound which is close to some lost Burrito Bros. song, a plea to that girl to "go with me". A wickedly blown harmonica fires us into 'Cicerone'. This is a pure stomping bluegrass track. It has the perfect pounding drums, "heys" and handclaps, then it steps up the pace even higher and we are spun round like some dervish.

After the whirlwind of 'Cicerone' inevitably the pace is taken down a notch and you are taken into the sweet country love song of  'Found The One'. This is a song that has a classic feel with a magical pop hook. The song is so strong that it would work covered by Ryan Adams to One Direction. The O’s leave it wrapped in the roots with some beautiful banjo. Sustaining the more sedate feel, but not wading in mire, 'Levee Breaks' is a sublimely powerful song that has a rich atmosphere, as we hear a cautionary tale of love under the guise of that breaking levee. The O’s find another great pop melody to underline the gem that is 'Secrets'. It has a real vibrancy, similar to that Springsteen found on 'Devils And Dust'. The O’s use those "heys" expertly again, giving the song a huge hook without it feeling forced. 'Running Games' is not so substantial, yet still has moments of wonder, but seems a little lost. Heading out next is 'Lighten The Load', a simple folk/country song that tells of things "not being as bad as they seem", while some lovely harmonies add dashes of colour.

'Rearranged' starts with a playful, Tom Waits vibe, before reaching out with an anthemic quality that Frank Turner uses so well. So far into 'Thunderdog' and 'Rearranged' stands up and stands out. 'Kitty' closes out the album, it is a tale of a woman scorned and has sharp claws in a stinging guitar solo that burns through the track. It's a darker song than those before, and shows that in a strong and hugely enjoyable album that The O’s are far from spent. And 'Thunderdog' is the newest word in my household's vocabulary.

Free download: 'Outlaw'
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The O's website

Buy the album

Catch them live:

Fri, 19 Jul Amarillo, TX Golden Light Cantina
Sat, 20 Jul Wichita Falls, TX The Iron Horse Pub
Wed, 24 Jul Midland, TX Basin Burger House
Thu, 25 Jul Alpine, TX Railroad Blues
Fri, 26 Jul Marathon, TX The Gage Hotel
Sat, 27 Jul Denton, TX University of North Texas
Wed, 31 Jul New Braunfels, TX Lone Star Music Store
Wed, 31 Jul Austin, TX Mohawk
Thu, 08 Aug Steamboat Springs, CO Carl's Tavern

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