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Hazlewoods - Leavin' You For A Cowboy

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 24 / 3 / 2003

Hazlewoods - Leavin' You For A Cowboy
Label: Laughing Outlaw
Format: CD


First album from Sydney based five piece the Hazelwoods, which has "updated the country sounds of 50 years ago and made them fresh and exciting again"

Once in a while an album comes along which, although steeped in the authentic sound of country and western from the 1950's, still manages to sound contemporary. Like Laura Cantrell’s debut from a couple of years back, the Hazelwoods have updated the country sounds of 50 years ago and made them fresh and exciting again. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, the Hazlewoods are a five-piece band formed in 1999 originally as the Desperates. They had a further name change to the Starlings before adding the outstanding talents of lead guitarist Matt Allison, and changing the name of the band to their present one and recording this, their first album. It’s an accomplished debut. The group produced the album as well as arranging and writing all but one of these songs. I had to check, in fact, that it was their debut album as it is almost unbelievable that a group less than 4 years old could turn out such a well-rounded set of songs as a debut and do it all themselves. From the opening track, ‘Divorce Trailer Style’, one can’t help but wonder if the band took their name from the great Lee Hazlewood. The song is not a million miles from the sound that 'The Lonesome Cowboy’ was producing along with Nancy Sinatra in 1967 on songs like ‘Jackson’. Initial thoughts are of a young Nancy fronting the band Hazeldine, but with more of that authentic country sound. The lyrics are smart, but whether they are "firmly tongue in cheek" or not, as their label’s press release suggests, is open to debate. It does sound that the band are having fun, and lots of it making this music, but it sounds genuine. The band are trying to remain true to the roots of the country / rockabilly sound rather than make a parody of it. Hell, the playing throughout is so perfect, especially that of lead guitarist and slide player Allison, that it leaves little doubts that every note, every sound here is coming from the heart. Lead vocalist Carrie Phillis, who has a hand in composing seven of the eleven tracks on the album, has the perfect voice for these songs; sassy, sexy and innocent, sometimes all three within the space of one song. Rhythm guitarist Kym-Louise Barton handles the lead vocals on three of the songs (including ‘Long Gone’, from which the title of the album is lifted) and proves to be just as capable as Phillis making the band very strong vocally. Barton’s second lead vocal on the album on the song ‘Loaded’ throws up a gentler, aching side to her vocals, one which came as a surprise after the "don’t give a damn" harder edge she delivered on ‘Long Gone’. When combined with the outstanding Allison’s guitar playing and the rhythm section of Fiona Whalley on bass and Joseph Neufeld on drums who never let up and really push the whole thing along, they sound like a band really enjoying the music they are making. Tracks such as ‘I Really, Really Love You’ do move away from the traditional country sound and that particular track has a flavour of mid-60's r’n’b about it. Again Allison’s guitar playing on this song is superb and the way Phillis spits out the lyrics show yet another side to this talented vocalist. Unrequited love never sounded so desperate. The following song, ‘Lambchops’, again takes a different route. Starting off as a gentle, melodic ballad it soon changes tempo with Allison chopping out some fantastic rock and roll guitar reminiscent of Bo Diddley. If it’s the best track on the album then the duet which follows with guest Geoffrey Corbett, ‘Comfort’, must rank in second place. A typical old-time country duet it again recalls the songs of Hazlewood and Sinatra with Corbett playing his part well. When the trio of Barton, Phillis and Corbett harmonise sweetly on the chorus it brings home just how accomplished this band is. ‘Big Hair’ is the kind of stomping, storming blues/country song Elvis would have handled well before the army got hold of him. The following song, ‘Teardrops’, is a slide driven country ballad which covers the perennial country theme of love lost and adds a touch of humour to the lyrics; “tear drops in my Tacos, Chilli stains on my dress, since you’ve gone and left me, my whole world’s in a mess”. This album had the same effect on me that label-mates Slick 57's debut for Laughing Outlaw had; I’d love to see them live. It sounds like a good time would be guaranteed. Feeling down? Stick this album in the player and if it doesn’t cheer you up then start worrying, something must be seriously wrong! It’s a good-time party album with playing and lyrics that are a cut way above average. It’s got cool cover art as well. I’d certainly travel far to catch this band live and their next album will be in my sticky hands as soon as it hits the shops.

Track Listing:-
1 Divorce Trailer Style
2 Long Gone
3 Love and Hate
4 Loaded
5 Trouble
6 I Really, Really Love You
7 Lambchops
8 Comfort
9 Big Hair
10 Teardrops
11 Adios Amigo

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