Oh great, we have another rock artist who wants to make a country album. This ought to be good right? So let me get this straight, we’re supposed to believe that Chris Shiflett, the lead drummer for the Foo Fighters (awesome band by the way) actually cares about country music enough to show respect to the genre and actually venture into this project with inspiration leading him rather than $omething el$e?
Well actually, that’s kind of exactly what we’re supposed to do. Look, Chris Shiflett isn’t going to feed you any bullshit about how he grew up with country and all of a sudden realized his true calling. Truth be told he didn’t get into country all THAT long ago until a friend supposedly told him to buy a Buck Owens as well as a Merle Haggard box set. However, he liked what he heard and wanted to make his own country albums right away, events that led to his first two solo albums, 2010’s self-titled album as well as 2013’s covers album All Hat and No Cattle. Yeah that’s right, Chris hopped on the country train before it was cool. Moreover he has no intention of “going country”. For him, making country music is simply something he wanted to pursue on the side, and hey, when he’s shown this much respect I can’t fault him for that.
You also know that Chris means business when he recruits Dave Cobb to produce his latest album, West Coast Town as well as recruit studio musicians such as Robby Turner, Chris Powell (Jamey Johnson), bassist Adam Garner, and keyboardist Michael Webb to play as well. The result equates to a fine project.
The biggest asset of West Coast Town is undoubtedly the instrumentation. It’s odd to describe that for a country album, although in reality it’s more a country rock album (not that that’s a bad thing, it’s a good thing actually). Really though, the guitars have a ton of punch and flavor to them, and when combined with other instruments such as the keys on “The Girl’s Already Gone”, they can make some insanely memorable moments. The song I just mentioned has a very jaunty rhythm to it, and other songs such as “Goodnight Little Rock” and “Cherry” both have a real kick to them in terms of the grooves. Then of course there’s the insanely catchy title track as well as the real punk, dark vibe of “I’m Still Drunk” which really pulls off the landing well. It’s admittedly a little hard saying much other than this, but the big takeaway is that the instrumentation, especially the guitars really pave the rest of the way for this record in terms of the atmospheres, the melodies and stories. It’s weird to say that about an album this year but it makes a standout feature all the same.
Now, I will admit the biggest hindrance from me calling this a great album is Chris Shiflett himself. To be fair, he is exerting a lot of himself onto this record in terms of his vocal personality, but considering he’s not honestly all that good of a singer, it can make for some rough moments. The chorus of “Blow Out The Candles” really shows the strain as does “Tonight’s Not Over”.
Moreover, for as consistently good as this album is, you do find yourself waiting for that one moment to blow you away. Lastly, I will say that the lyricism on this record can feel a little paint by numbers at times. I still really enjoy the title track for that insanely catchy guitar riff, but I also did find the chorus a little too non-descriptive, and “Room 102” is a little too on the nose for me to say it’s a classic country tear in your beer tearjerker.
On the flip side, there are some great lyrical moments here. “Sticks and Stones” does a great job depicting a love falling apart and showing how there’s blame for both sides, and “I’m Still Drunk” is a really good look at this narrator’s downward spiral after his life goes to hell. “Goodnight Little Rock” is also an extremely fun, albeit tongue in cheek look at life on the road that manages to spice it up enough in all areas to stick the landing. It might be my favorite on the album.
And as a whole this is the type of project that doesn’t need a lot of words, mostly because it speaks for itself as to how enjoyable it is. As for the grade, I’m leaning towards a solid 7/10. As someone who enjoys both country and rock, I find myself enjoying it a lot, and while it’s not going to change your world or anything like that, it also proves that some rock artists actually do care about the music they make, so thanks for that Mr. Shiflett.
Favorite Songs: “Goodnight Little Rock”, “I’m Still Drunk”, “Sticks and Stones”