Written by Mike Yoder, posted by blog admin
Russ Still and the Moonshiners’ latest album, Still Cookin’, is the fourth in a series of releases that has established this six member outfit as one of the most pre-eminent interpreters of Southern and country rock traditions active today. Still, the band leader, is the band’s driving songwriting force and credited with writing eight out of the album’s nine tracks on his own. The one co-write on this album, “Juanita”, fits in quite nicely with the rest of the album. Taken as a whole, Still Cookin’ does illustrate a band firing on all cylinders and not yet approaching that point where the bloom comes off the rose, leaving even some of the best bands sounding tired and staid. Russ Still and his collaborators continuing to approach music making with all the exuberance and freshness that has defined their work from the first and it’s wrapped up with super production values further enhancing the material.
“Promised Land” is the sort of first song that albums of this ilk require and the band does a memorable job of balancing looseness and confidence. The guitar work doesn’t busy itself trying to fill every second of sonic real estate and that same tastefulness of presentation extends to the other instruments as well as the remainder of the album. “Long Way from Home” has much more of an acoustic base than the first song, but it still sparks to electric life at all the right points. Still does an excellent job selling hard luck and loneliness without ever sounding too overwrought. “Glorine’s” comes off great thanks to a little added raucousness than we heard in the aforementioned songs and Still responds to that mood with some extra bite in his singing. The album’s finest foray into ballad territory comes with the simply titled “I Can’t”. Experienced listeners might already know some of the songwriting directions Still is likely to take and he doesn’t disappoint, but the joy is found in hearing him get there. The song and performance alike aspire to emotional highs that the arrangement and vocal alike reach with little difficulty.
“Gone Fishin’” is definitely one of the more commercial moments on Still Cookin’, but even here the band fails to pander. It isn’t rocket science, but it certainly takes an experienced hand to pluck phrases from our sharing lexicon and fashion entertaining songs around that language. Still succeeds splendidly here. The album’s sole co-credit comes, as mentioned earlier, with the song “Juanita” and it provides an unexpectedly anthemic moment late in the album that will definitely win over live audiences. “Workin’ Class Hunter” is a simmering, moody number late in the album with enough bluesy growl under its breath to keep the listener tense and expecting an even deeper bite to come at any moment. Still Cookin’ does show a band that, after a handful of albums and countless miles, shows no signs of tiring out. Russ Still and the Moonshiners are gathering momentum still and looking to impress anyone willing to give them a chance.