Country Jukebox Jury LP: The Outlaw Orchestra – Makin’ Tracks

Based on the south coast of England, the UK’s answer to The Cadillac Three or Brothers Osborne have put out their third release in 18 months (one of which was a short EP of covers and is reviewed here.

Dave, Ryan and Pete open the album with Done My Time. There’s chaingang percussion, bluesy wails, harmonised call-and-response vocals and a guitar lick, and it’s a fine introduction to an album full of riffs and vocal reverb. See also the party-starting Back In The Game (bring your own alcohol) and Rattlesnake Sour Over-Proof, where ‘the lights are out and we lost all power’, probably because they turned the amps up too loud.

These guys know how to write rock’n’roll songs. Red Rag has a chorus full of colours and two guitar parts going on at any one time, while There’s No Easy Way To Say This opens with a punch and continues with similar intensity for 2 minutes 30 seconds. Rollin’ Stone has a tongue-twister of a chorus (‘you got me tied up, twisted and sewn’) which is followed by a guitar gently weeping and, later in the song, a brilliant middle eight that gives way to a fun solo.

They also add a little country hoedown (and a namecheck for Al Gore, I think) on Enough About Me (‘let’s talk about you, what you think about me?’). They can slow things down too, where the listener can catch their breath but still appreciate the high level of musicianship. Sea Legs is a power ballad about ageing, and Got It Made has a triple-time feel and some neat vocals bellowing about being jacks of all trades but masters of none.

The centrepiece of the album is Blame the Horse, a tale about betting on the gee-gees told over seven minutes, including a minute-long intro. Dave, whose vocals on the album are the best I have heard on a UK country release this year, growls his way through the narrative with openness (‘I’ll be frank, I’ve grown a beard!’) as the production piles organ on top of guitars on top of drums.

The sound of UK Country is better than it has ever been, and producers don’t get the credit they deserve, so well done to David Evans here, who has managed to capture the lightning of the band’s live show onto what I still want to call tape. The Outlaw Orchestra are the kind of band that DJs would convert into the listener’s favourite new band.

In the absence of Peel or Lamacq, my recommendation will have to do. 

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