Your crusty chronicler is an individual who does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their new “List” format, it was nigh impossible not to be open-minded about it. So, with that spirit of unity and teamwork in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”.
In this edition we check out Michael & The Lonesome Playboys’ Bottle Cap Sky. For those not up on country and western up-and-comers, Michael & The Lonesome Playboys is an L.A.-based band is currently comprised of songwriter Michael Ubaldini (/lead guitar/harmonica and vocals), Rob King (bass), Gary Brandon (pedal steel and dobro) and R.P. Turner (drums) who doesn’t appear on the album. An assortment of additional artists assisted on the album including: Jeremy Long (piano), Candy Girard (fiddle) and Mickey “Sticks” Weiland, Kipp Dabbs and Jerry Angel (drums).
(Read through the list to discover more about the music.)
“Walk Through Fire”
The album opens on “Walk Through Fire”. This is a song about “facing down death with a strong will to survive” as Ubaldini has done. It’s an adequate introduction to the band’s signature sound and yet it doesn’t fully exemplify Ubaldini’s efforts as a songwriter. It features Deanie Wood on back-up vocals.
The second selection is “Moondog Mad”. This, too, is an early indication of what the band is all about in terms of musical genre. This is another example of one of those fun songs with dark lyrics. Witness lyrical lines like: “There’s blood on the moon and things are looking bad.”
“Sweet Ol’ Riddle” and “Lonesome When You’re Gone”
The next number is “Sweet Ol’ Riddle”. By this time the careful listener should begin to grasp the effects of Ubaldini’s being raised on country and western, folk and blues as he has been. It’s followed by the song “Lonesome When You’re Gone” which demonstrates his writing abilities as a balladeer.
“The Outlaw” is perhaps a song that is almost a prerequisite considering the likes and dislikes of this group. This isn’t a slight just an observation on the inner-workings of the band and more specifically Ubaldini himself. It’s still apparent that the song means something to him whether the tune is expected or not.
“Two Wrongs Like Us (Don’t Make A Right)”
“Two Wrongs Like Us (Don’t Make A Right)” comes next on the playlist. This tune also reminds the careful listener that Ubaldini is simply trying to write songs that not only mean something to him—one of the things that saves this song from being too typical—but also that he is trying to get back to the real roots of the genre.
“Someone Should Put You On Trial” and “Heart Full Of Tears”
“Someone Should Put You On Trial” and “Heart Full Of Tears” follow here. Again, there is something intimate and personal about these tunes that makes you overlook the obvious influences and serves as a quite effective saving grace. He is not only haunted by the ghosts of great artists past but also his personal past.
“J.W. Pride The Texas Oil Man” and “Three Cheers For Heartache”
“J.W. Pride The Texas Oil Man” is an entertaining enough tale of a “Texas oil man” that is almost all too quickly followed by “Three Cheers For Heartache”. The latter is touted as “a melodic rock ‘n’ roll song with a country feel”. Some might consider it more old school country rock but that description is apt. Either way it works well enough.
“Rosewood Night” is a song that goes in more than one direction in terms of lyrics. The country cut musically recalls a moment of betrayal and yet also holds within it an obvious hope for a lover’s return. “Another Side With Every Story” is next and puts the focus where some current country artists do not. Mitch Ross guests on the drums.
“Soulful Love Rest Here No More” and “Steel Train”
The memorable “Soulful Love Rest Here No More” and the noteworthy “Steel Train” are also included on the album. By now the influences of such performers as Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and even blues musician Robert Johnson should be rather obvious that the point of these pieces is to share personal perspectives and remain true to the genre’s origins.
“Interstate ‘5’” is the album’s end-note. Again, this type of song is almost a prerequisite yet it remains somehow an effective original. Ubaldini is a man of many experiences and someone who strongly admires and is dedicated to his musical roots.
This material sounds nothing like the current crop of current Nashville newbies put out in the recent past. In fact, Michael & The Lonesome Playboys detest modern country music and make that quite clear here. No doubt if you told Ubaldini his stuff often sounds a lot like old country music he’d not only walk away smiling but “Walk Through Fire” to keep it that way.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.