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Monday, Nov. 2, 2009

Watermelon Slim & The Workers

Escape From the Chicken Coop (NorthernBlues)

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With ubiquitous cowboy hat, pervasive National steel guitar and song titles like “Skinny Women and Fat Cigars” and “Hank Williams You Wrote My Life,” there seems little doubt that Watermelon Slim and company are straight out of ZZ Top country. Slim’s latest, a batch of trucker songs, complete with props to various Southern cities and stereotypical hard-drinking, lazy-going ways of life, only builds on his tobacco-stained oeuvre.

The fact that the guitarist is Boston-born and a card-carrying Mensa member does little to negate this hardscrabble, Deep South imagery—especially with Slim’s spittle so blatantly flying between teeth gaps throughout. Lists of what he likes pile up (“double shots of Wild Turkey”) and rub alongside heartaches (“I heard the crash on the highway”), while the endless merits of the open road (“three big ol’ asphalt lanes”) always beckon. The front-porch familiarity and Bud-swilling sense of what matters leave a consistent—if only a bit hackneyed—slice of red-state Americana, but such an old-school, rootsy straddle of blues and country harkens back to a time before such demographic terms really mattered.

And while it’s the reverence for the nameless trucker that makes this a good one for the road, that continuous focus also renders it a unique type of good ol’ boy concept album. At the same time, there’s enough twang to do-si-do ’til dawn on a Friday night and just enough sleaze to act as an anti-Garth Brooks, anti-Nashville reminder of how toothless and shit-kicking country can be.


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