April  2002

Hillbilly Idol
Slewfoot Records 0662
Released: 2002

by Marc Rigrodsky

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Hillbilly Idol -- great name (Hill-Billy-Idol), fun band. These flatlander boys from Cleveland, the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, sure know their way around the South. They start in the bayou of Louisiana for some zydeco ("Smack Dab in the Middle of Love"), work their way to the West Texas plains for some western swing ("No Time Like the Past", "One Step Forward"), veer off to Nashville to pay some country dues ("Late in the Day", "No More to Lose"), and head for the blue bluegrass of the mountains, as in Tennessee ("Between Here and Heaven and Gone"). They drop hints that they went to Memphis to see The King ("Hurt Heart Broke"), and pay their respects to the ghost of Hank Williams almost every step of the way. Got ‘em figured out? Nope. They finish up with a good old-fashioned Southern California surf instrumental.

Unlike the old joke ("I just flew in from Cleveland, and boy are my arms tired"), the Idols' musical itinerary left me exhilarated. Yes, most of their songs are laments of love gone bad, but they don’t seem to have contracted the blues. Fact is, they sound like they’re having fun, a lot of fun, which is contagious in its own way as well. The core band consists of a standard country lineup: two guitars, steel guitar, bass, and drums. They are all fine singers and musicians, and they add on all the right musical accouterments (you can’t have zydeco without an accordion, now can you?) in all the right places.

Up-tempo, rollicking, and hell bent on having a good time, Hillbilly Idol shows once again that country doesn’t have to be boring, maudlin, or overly tradition-bound. Put on your boots and your best C&W outfit and let these Yankees give you a musical tour of the swamps, mountains, and desert of the land below the Mason-Dixon Line.