For their latest, ninth, studio album as Truckstop Honeymoon, Kansas-based ex-pat Mike West and New Orleans-born wife Katie decided to make things a family affair. Recruiting the kids, Sadie, Vega, Julian and Esther, as musicians, along with background noises from their three dogs and parrot, Big Things and Little Things was recorded around their dining room table.
As you might imagine, there’s a relaxed, homespun feel to things, a mood compounded by the off the cuff vibe of many of the songs, many of which have athe playful sense of fun. A perfect example is the 1 minute 52 seconds of L.P. a tambourine chugger about, well, making a long vinyl player, because they sell for more and you “can’t survive on .0009 cents from Spotify”, as is the good timing Ice Cream Man and the lazy jug band Baja.
But, that’s not to say there’s not a serious thread weaving through the album, even when the music is jaunty. The bluegrassy hoedown title track is a case in point, a song about having a sense of perspective that references the refugee crisis and Trump’s Mexico wall. Likewise, The Governor of Kansas takes a poke at Sam Brownback, regarded by many as America’s worst governor while the bouncy-banjo led romp Got No Use is a succinct comment on America’s love of the gun.
Detailing all sixteen tracks would take too long, but a few deserve a particular mention. Everything’s Normal, a waltzing duet about trying to juggle family and parenthood duties and the nine to five slog and still have a life. Australia, where Katie takes the lead on a mandolin-picked road song about flying back to West’s birthplace. A wry love song to the Ugly Part of Town and finally, Katie’s ballad of love, longing, marriage, and family Now We Are Six.
Although musically Truckstop Honeymoon primarily sticks to their familiar bluegrass and retro country sound, the fingerpicked Montague Street, Don’t Go Crying and Thank You shades things with jazz-tinted acoustic blues and they round off with Go Go Go, a ukulele coloured number that shifts between slow jug band blues and strummed new wave. Great stuff, Truckstop Honeymoon should stay home more often.
Photo credit: Jason Dailey