If you believe the hip-hop community has a monopoly on youthful hedonism, you obviously haven’t heard Moonshine Bandits. With Calicountry, these hick-hop artists mix rapping with country-esque music to create the hillbilly equivalent to gangsta rap.
Granted, these guys don’t sing about drive-bys and gang affiliations. However, they’re nevertheless always quick to praise whiskey, women and weed. If you roll like that, Calicountry may well become the soundtrack of your summer. If you don’t party quite so hearty, however, there isn’t much to recommend this new release.
Their artistic mission statement, if you want to call it that, is that these bad boys are the modern day descendants of Hank Williams, Jr. and Johnny Cash. Presumably, had Johnny Cash come from the hood, rather than Arkansas farmlands, he might sound a little bit like Moonshine Bandits, and sing about the same subject matter, too. Just for a little clarification, though, Cash was always an outlaw at war with his baser instincts. He may have kicked out the footlights at the Grand Ole Opry, but he always regretted it. He also fought with chemical addiction, but he never championed substance abuse the way Moonshine Bandits do so overtly. It’s as though these guys took all the bad qualities from their artistic heroes and completely ignored any positive characteristics. Cash also made Christian-themed movies and appeared at Billy Graham crusades, remember. Yet you don’t get any positivity at all from these hill country thugs.
Musically, Moonshine Bandits at least sound authentic. Unlike some of their more mainstream hick-hock contemporaries, these guys aren’t afraid to drop a few f-bombs now and again. You don’t get the impression they’re shooting for mainstream success – even though they’ve partnered with Colt Ford on “We All Country.” In truth, these musicians are about as country as guys like Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert. Nevertheless, this is not really saying much. Both Aldean and Gilbert are Southern rockers that have luckily been accepted by the country mainstream because their hard-living songs have found an empathetic audience within the bro-country contingency. If Aldean and Gilbert had not been so accepted by young country music fans, Moonshine Bandits would be little more than an anomaly. Call it dumb luck.
Those that love melodic country (not even limiting this taste merely to traditional country) may get tired of Calicountry quickly. These tracks are relentlessly driven by sparse, pounding beats and filled with simplistic party cheerleading lyrics. Only “Much Better” attempts to address the consequences of partying all the time. In this case, a man admits his partying ways have driven a wedge between himself and his girl. “I’ve still got your heart,” he states, “but you deserve much better.” Similarly, true country music fans deserve much better than this.