Skunkmello – Hot Chicken

Skunkmello

Photo: AJ Ferrer

The term “Urban Cowboys” seems appropriate when describing the NYC outfit known as Skunkmello. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I doubt that there are more than enough country and southern rock acts calling the vast metropolis home. It’s just that the genre in this location appears largely unnoticed and its acts appear a bit out of place. If this is truly the case, Skunkmello is not only giving the scene much needed exposure but also an unusual blend of country, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll that is the group’s sound.

Skunkmello’s LP, Hot Chicken is due out June 10th. A pair of singles from the album is available on Bandcamp, as well as the Stars and Stripes album, a pair of EPs, and a few live compilations. These recordings feature a variety of unexpected instrumentation including slide guitar, electric dobro, mandolin, and harmonica.

The standout element in Cardboard Box Disguise is the energy, which hits you from the start. The fierce sounding bends and strums on the guitar shine through in a thick and robust tone. The lead guitar becomes even more notable with the blues solo at 2:38. “Don’t ask me how it got this way,” vocalist Matt Bartlett sings before backing vocals follow closely behind repeating his words with a shout. This is a feel-good start to the album.

Ridin’ the River is one of the two aforementioned singles available on Bandcamp. Drummer Jono Ori kicks off the intro with a drum roll. The verse features a basic blues riff, which walks back-and-forth between a few chords. The shrill of the harmonica is also present here to add to the already bluesy vibe.

Highway 17 may be the most traditional sounding country song on the record. Bartlett sounds like he’s playing an extremely old acoustic. The combination of this and the steel guitar gives this a truly classic country sound. The vocals have a southern drawl to them, which is most apparent when Bartlett uses the words “generosity” and “pharmacy.” I don’t know where Bartlett is originally from, but he doesn’t sound like he’s from New York on this tune or any other tune for that matter.

Having the word “blues” in the song title is customary for the band. The Stars and Stripes LP includes Half Windsor Blues, Solicitation Blues, and Bad Morning Blues. This tradition continues on Hot Chicken with Slaughterhouse Blues and Cash Flow Blues, which both feature a jarring distortion of the guitar. The fingerpicking in the intro and verse to Cash Flow Blues gives it a bit of a bluegrass feel. While Slaughterhouse Blues fits more into the style of early rock ‘n’ roll acts like The Doors and The Rolling Stones.

The album ends in an unexpectedly calm fashion with Sweet Delight, as this is the only song on the record to that takes it down a bit. All other tracks leading up to this one are high-energy compositions appropriate for parties and bar atmospheres. The instrumentation carries along smoothly. All instruments are played gently and with restraint. Even the notes in the guitar solo are drawn out and exaggerated in order to maintain a slow groove.

These guys seem to stick to a formula when it comes to songwriting. So, if you’re looking for a band that’s a bit more experimental with its songwriting, you won’t find that on this album. With that being said, the formula they’ve created is unique. These guys incorporate various genres, which enables them to widen their audience and appeal to almost anyone.

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