Ever since the so-called “devils music” first invaded American jukeboxes and placed naughty thoughts into the dreams of its youth, rock and roll and country have often made for amicable bedfellows. From the mainstream hits of The Eagles to the heavy metal, southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd to the more current Kid Rock, countless artists have tried their hand at blending elements of both genres into their own sound. While the aforementioned bands are undoubtedly rock groups, albeit with mild country undertones, the three girls from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, known as Those Darlins, lean more to the country side of the road.
Kelly, Nikki, and Jessie Darlin recently released their self-titled album, Those Darlins, on their own Oh Wow Dang! Records, amidst a slew of positive press mostly generated from the buzz of their energetic live shows. This year, the band wowed the crowds at SXSW and Bonnaroo with its own brand of buzzsaw country and hopes to continue cranking up the momentum.
Definitely not the run-of-the-mill country pop that has been dominating the airwaves, the talented trio exhibit a nostalgic charm and have combined elements of classic country, punk, and alternative rock to create an old time rockabilly feel, while simultaneously sounding fresh and current. The resulting vibe is loose and carefree and exudes an uninhibited, punk attitude with lyrics such as, If you wanna drink and drive, better find a boy to take you home for the night, from DUI or Die.
The album kicks off with arguably its two most memorable songs, Red Light Love and Wild One. The lead track, Red Light Love, is damn catchy and the best example of pure, undiluted rock and roll on the record. Reminiscent of the early nineties alternative scene, the song is a splash of three-part harmonies and raw guitar that should satisfy even the most critical ears.
Alternately, the first single, Wild One, hearkens back to rocks early days, with Nikki Darlins lead vocals sounding remarkably like a female Johnny Cash, all wrapped up in another infectious, sing-along chorus. Other rockers include the rockabilly-inflicted rebellion of Hang Up on Me and a straight-ahead, electric cover of the Carter Familys Whos that Knocking on My Window. The bands affection for The Carter Family and other old time country acts is obvious, as they also cover The Carter Familys Cannonball Blues and Uncle Dave Macons Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy.
The remaining 12 tracks are heavily country flavored, such as the melancholy Mamas Heart and the wild party anthem The Whole Damn Thing, which captures the time-honored joy of drinking all night and eating chicken.
With songs that are both catchy and fun, Those Darlins snarl like the sassy offspring of Johnny Cash and Joan Jett, and while they may not be enough rock and roll for some, and maybe too much rock and roll for others, theyre content in their own skin and appear headed for greater horizons. Itll be interesting to see how the band evolves over its next couple of releases. Will the trio stand by its old time country roots or loosen the reins and let its punk spirit free? Or maybe theyll just continue walking the fine line between country and rock, but whichever way they go, they have the talent to pull it off, and theyll continue keeping their listeners slam dancing and two-stepping all along the dance floor with them.
“Red Light Love