The Fat River Band - The Last Great Guitar Heist
This country and western band (no, wait a second, come back!) comes not from America, but rather from Kent of all places. In fact, the sleeve proudly states that there are no actual Americans on the album. However, this album reeks of Nashville; you get the impression that the tourbus dropped them off in Dover one day, Stetsons and all, and forgot to pick them up again.
The Fat River Band formed in 2001 around a group of long-time friends. Taking influences from a number of sources, including Steve Earle and The Band, they have played extensively around the east coast, bringing together elements of country, blues, boogie and rock. Starting life as a covers band, they gradually introduced their own songs into the set until now, they have enough songs for this debut release, recorded at their "Big Squeak" studios over the past two years.
This album has a lovely, relaxed sound to it, from what are clearly a very accomplished bunch of musicians. "San Diego" is a good example of this - it opens with a loose mandolin introduction, leading into an excellent, shuffling beat, mixing skiffle and bluegrass into an infectious track. Equally good is "The Ghost of Johnny Cash", twangy, fruity guitar set against a tight performance from the band.
Also good is "American Boy", a song that sees the singer longing for the American lifestyle, jealous of his brother’s ability to get a job in New York and live the dream in his shiny Cadillac. "Heartbreak Ridge" is also has a great vocal performance, and some really nice keyboard work as well, set against some skilful guitar and a gentle solo.
Best song in my mind though is "Tom", which opens side 2. We are very much in country territory here, with fiddle and a tapped percussive beat. The production on this song is strong and crisp, making it an emotive and quite personal sounding piece of music. This is also the case on album closer "My Old Country Barn", which has some really lovely slide guitar and a gentle organ piece - a very fine song indeed.
It's not all great - album opener "Best Friend's Mother" is the weakest track in my view, and "Why Can't I Fall For You" is just a bit too much country for my liking. However, on the whole the songs on this album are very strong indeed, full of charm and evidence that this is a band that loves playing together.
This won't be for everyone; it is one for the dads or those who are a fan of this type of music. For an independent release though it is very polished, well produced, and contains a very fine collection of songs.
This album is avaliable from the band direct, priced at £10.00.
You can find out more at their website, www.thefatriverband.co.uk.
Or at their Myspace page.