Album Review: The Nouveaux Honkies “Blues for Country”

The first (and title-track) song on The Nouveaux Honkies’ new album Blues For Country is essentially about how hard it is to classify this duo: “Too blues for country / Too country for blues.” We’ll just welcome them into the big old, catch-all, tent of Americana with open arms, because Tim O’Donnell and Rebecca Dawkins can flat out play and can flat out sing. I’m listening to this album on an airplane and really annoying the guy next to me because I am grooving as much as you can when you’re travelling coach.

UntitledDawkins’ fiddle sets the mood on the album. When they’re singing upbeat tunes, she strings these playful little runs together and when they turn introspective, like on “Hours Into Days,” she reinforces the darkness and loneliness in the lyric. O’Donnell sings lead and he has a great country baritone, rich and true.

There are some pretty familiar country tropes in their lyrics. “The Whiskey’s Getting Harder to Drink,” fits right into the traditional country genre of boozy regret and “I Know Things You Read About” is a wry rejection of narrow versions of success: “I know things you read about / Like how to flay a speckled trout. / How to dress a wild boar / How to lay a tile floor. / I ain’t sayin’ I’m a millionaire / But I can build a spiral stair / No Ph.D, I ain’t got much clout / But I know things you read about.”

O’Donnell and Dawkins pay tribute to Townes Van Zandt with a slow, gorgeous cover of “Pancho and Lefty,” trading verses and solos that really capture the emotion of the song. My favorite song on the album is, “She’s Nothing But Wrong,” which shows off O’Donnell’s range as a singer and is driven by a funky rhythm that might have been picked up in New Orleans on the duo’s road trips around the south. Pick up Blues for Country and stay tuned to their tour page—I bet these two are pretty fun to see live.

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