Nine months ago we brought you an EP from country rock band Outlaw Orchestra and said that it was so good it left you wanting more, perhaps an album next time. I’m glad they listened and now they’re back with their first album, Pantomime Villains.  The music they play can be termed as ‘heavygrass’ (their own term) and it describes beautifully the mix of country, blues, rock and flamenco that blend to produce a fabulous sound.  I said it was the “kitchen sink approach to music making” and it’s still that and it still works.

With Pantomime Villains, band members David Roux (guitars and lead vocals), Ryan Smith (drums/vocals), Pete Briley (Banjo/Lap Steel/Vocals) and Alex Barter (double bass and vocals) have made an album that takes you on the A to Z of their sound and leaves you feeling all the better for it.  ‘Take A Bow‘ sets the scene with a rollickingly good fast paced track – you know you’re in for a good time.  ‘Chicken Fried Snake‘ and ‘Hanging Tree‘ continue in a similar vein, with rootsy bluegrass coming through in the latter.

The stand out track for me is ‘Voodoo Queen‘, with a wonderful flamenco introduction and moves into a song with a hypnotic rhythm before building to a finale that blows you away.  It’s a track to listen to three or four times on the bounce.  

The wit that was apparent in their previous releases is abundant here, from the song titles to the lyrics; whiskey features rather a lot!  In ‘Whiskey Drinking Liar’ for example, the lyrics tell the tale of a relationship gone bad and the seemingly everlasting appeal of a good man gone bad:

I’m no good for you, I’m a whiskey drinking liar, I will tell you what you wanna hear….Should have listened to your friends about the other fish in the sea

And I love the chutzpah involved in naming a song ‘Too Much Willie Nelson’ and then singing “and I’m no Johnny Cash”.

This is a rip roaringly good collection of songs that make a coherent whole – can’t recommend it enough.

The band’s advice for aspiring musicians is to “do what you love, make the music you want to make and do it as well as you can.”

Pantomime Villains was released on May 29 on Voodoo Queen Records. Get your copy here.

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