Album Review – The Royal Hounds’ ‘Poker All Night Long’

I know what you’re thinking. Leon, what the hell could this possibly be? These aren’t cowboys carrying on the traditions of country music. They’re three dudes playing poker with the middle one looking like Jim Carrey’s stunt double from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. What could you possibly have to say about this or convince me to check it out?

Well actually, I have quite a lot to say about the Las Vegas based band, The Royal Hounds. I admit, I like to go into new projects completely blind, letting the music doing the talking and deciding whether or not I want to cover this particular album and band. Let me tell you folks, if you go into the discography of the Royal Hounds completely blind, you’ll be in for a surprise, and most of all a treat.

Known for their crazy live shows filled with outrageous antics and high energy performances, the Royal Hounds are a band with heart. And you better believe that all of that energy and craziness is evident on their latest release, Poker All Night Long, hence why this is quite the project to come into blind.

This album is weird in so many ways, and I mean weird in a good way. It’s humorous, it’s crazy, it’s high energy, it’s so many things. Seriously, not one damn song on this album feels phoned in. Every song here has a lot of passion through the vocals of lead singer Scott Hinds. Truth be told it’s got the one thing seemingly missing from a lot of projects this year, and that’s heart.
There’s a ton of places you could start when talking about this album. I guess I’ll start with the lyrics. They’re mostly humorous throughout, and you could probably guess by when you look at a title like “Elvis Is Haunting My Bathroom”, an album highlight by the way.  It’s kind of like a Wheeler Walker Jr. level of funny without having to rely on sexual innuendo to deliver the impact. Of course, this humor is certainly…strange. “Bacon Time” is one of those songs that I can’t just explain to you. It’s a highlight, but the writing throughout is so delightfully strange that you just have to hear it yourself. The same goes for “Psycho”, a song that’s literally about a psychotic narrator. “Apocalypse Boogie” is literally set in a time where the end of the world is near and yet all the people can do in this song is dance since, why not? It’s hard to talk about the writing without spoiling too much of the magic you experience with hearing this stuff for the first time.

And of course, talking about the sound is enough to fill up this review as well. The band describes themselves as “rockabilly, swing, surf, and honky-tonk”, and that’s the best description I think you can make folks. There’s a ton of variety to the sounds on this album, and yet it’s all rooted not in Country or Americana, but Rockabilly. Heck, opening track “On The Verge” will have you thinking that you hit play on a Legendary Shack Shakers record. “Bacon Time” is jazz and western swing all at the same time and it’s unbelievably awesome. Heck, there’s even a moment to show off their surf side with the instrumental, “Long Reef”. “Psycho” is rooted in straight up classic country and I dare you to sing along with every word of the high energy “Gin Day”. Seriously.

Heck, even the moments that don’t rely on humor like “On The Verge”, and “Train Kept A-Rollin’” are full of so much energy that they’re still enjoyable in their own right. Again, I can’t stress enough how much passion these guys put into their work.

Even with as much as I’ve praised this album, I’m holding back the top grade of “4 Flags Soaring In The Air” for a few weaker moments. “Tune In Tokyo” certainly isn’t a bad song, but it feels weird sandwiched in between two pure instrumental songs, the latter of which really isn’t needed. Still, it’s not something that bogs down the entire album.

Poker All Night Long never once takes itself seriously, and that’s honestly the best thing the Royal Hounds could have done. This is quite easily the weirdest album I’ve heard, and in a year where so many projects are bogged down by being too predictable, The Royal Hounds prove that there’s still a way to make smart, original music infused with passion. Perhaps it will be a little TOO strange for some, but give them a chance folks. At the very least, you can probably agree that it’s unlike anything else you’ve heard this year.

Best Songs: “Elvis Is Haunting My Bathroom”, “Bacon Time”, “Train Kept A-Rollin'”                                                                                             

(9/10)

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