After being involved in many punk bands for most of his career, and after playing for years as a guitarist of the Foo Fighters, it seems that Chris Shiflett is going back to his old love: country music. Because this is exactly what his new band Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants and his new album ‘All Hat and No Cattle’ are about.
Chris Shiflett and his band gave an in-store concert at Amoeba on Tuesday night and signed copies afterward, but it looks like a lot of his buddies had come to support him as Chris didn’t stop shaking hands, hugging people and addressing personal messages to people in the crowd… in fact he looked so relaxed and at ease, that I thought I had been invited to a private performance for family members.
‘All Hat And No Cattle’ which was released on July 30th via Side One Dummy, is already the band’s second album, and Shiflett was showing nothing but confidence on stage, a confidence which was probably coming from his long experience playing on stage with the Foo Fighters (among other bands), but also from a certain natural disposition. He looked, spoke and acted as someone I had always known, playing songs which sounded extremely familiar, and there is a very good reason for that. If their self-titled and debut album consisted of some heavily Americana-influenced original songs, this new album is a series of country covers except one original song,’ A Woman Like You’.
Their set at Amoeba was a mix of country songs every real country lover loves and respects, the country from fans of Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Gene Vincent, not the big-hit crappy songs we hear all the time on today’s allegedly called country radio stations. Certainly not, it was old school country, the real honky tonk deal.
Shiflett got his idea to form this band while touring around for the Foo Fighters’ album ‘Wasting Light’, and spent months rehearsing country classics with his band, based on the idea that, if he really wanted to commit to this kind of music, he would have to totally immerse himself in country music.
According to the setlist on stage, they didn’t play anything off their debut album but almost only great classics such as Johnny Cash/Marshall Grant’s ‘Long Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man’, Buck Owens’ ‘Wham Bam’, Alan Jackson’s ‘Pop a Top’, Wynn Stewart’s ‘Happy Part of Town’ and ‘Playboy’, Johnny Horton’s ‘Got the Bull by the Horns’, Waylon Jennings’ ‘Good Time Charlies’, Merle Haggard’s ‘Swinging Doors’… and if I haven’t listened to these classics for ages, Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants were playing them with an energy that didn’t exist in the original versions. The steel pedal was definitively transforming Amoeba into a cowboy bar ambiance, and Chris Shiflett even looked like one of these cowboys. The music may have sounded honky tonk, but it was faster, more powerful, and the guitars were definitively removing any dust left over the old classics. ‘I’m gonna break every heart I can’, he joked before playing Hank Williams Jr. ‘I’m Gonna Break Your Heart’. They skipped a few songs on the list because of a lack of time, but they didn’t want to stop, they just had so much fun,…‘So much emotion, I don’t know if I can continue’, he added after a solo on steel pedal, ‘Can we play another one?’ he asked and they ended the set with Waylon Jennings’ ‘Are you Sure Hank Done it This Way’, an interesting cover they may have extended a bit, but a true tribute to Hank Williams, and the right way to pay homage to his country heroes.
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