* * *1/2 (three and ½ stars out of five)
If you’ve ever wondered what would have happened if June Carter and Loretta Lynn had been inspired by the Ramones to form a punk band, the answer has arrived with a Murfreesboro, TN postmark.
In their eponymous debut album, Those Darlins play honky tonk country with a punk rock flair, milking the Appalachian lifestyle for inspiration and a few laughs. Like the Ramones, the band members have all taken the same last name—Darlin—but you should resist the temptation to pigeonhole them as some sort of novelty act.
Each Darlin gets her moment in the sun as they trade lead vocals on the album’s 12 tracks. Guitarist Jessi Darlin has a vintage country voice that sounds for all the world like it could have been pressed into vinyl 50 years ago. Nikki Darlin is more accomplished with the baritone ukulele than her voice, and bassist Kelley Darlin slots somewhere between the two. Mixing it up helps keep things interesting, not that you’re likely to nod off during redneck stomps like “The Whole Damn Chicken,” in which our heroine gets drunk, discovers a chicken in her kitchen, and eats—yes—the whole damn thing, before succumbing to remorse upon awakening from her stupor and realizing that her only friend is a pile of chicken bones.
It gets better—the anthemic “Who’s That Knockin’ at My Window” reaches for the nosebleed seats as it builds from a folksy singalong to a crescendo of howling, fuzzy guitars. “Snaggle Tooth Mama” is a proud slice of white-trash chest-thumping, and “DUI or Die” advocates hooking up as a way to find a safe ride home after a night at the bar.
“Drinkin’ and pain go hand-in-hand,” the Darlins observe in the slow and pretty hurtin’ song “Glass to You,” and that’s a running theme throughout this album. Don’t tell MADD, but drinkin’ and fun often go hand-in-hand as well, and thankfully, Those Darlins haven’t forgotten that bit, either.
This is a promising debut. Let’s hope Those Darlins continue to expand their creative palette and avoid slipping into self-parody.
Search for concert tickets