GT and the Sidewinders | Across America (s/r)

Across America brings a refreshing take on revival music with a heavier-handed dose of traditionalism than the likes of most ’50s throwback groups.

By the look of the cover art and the band picture in the liner notes, one might roll their eyes and expect to find another twelve tracks of Reverend Horton Heat in a can on GT and the Sidewinders’ latest full length Across America. To be certain, there is a fair amount of cool in a return to rockabilly beginnings and making modern music in the vein of the old masters of rock ‘n’ roll, but the genre is coming to a point of being done to death. 

With that in mind, an approach to Across America actually brings a refreshing take on revival music with a heavier-handed dose of traditionalism than the likes of most ’50s throwback groups.  This is not to say GT and the Sidewinder stand on tradition per se, but said tradition is given a more dominant play in their songwriting skills.  As the press for Across America puts it, “Can American music be traditional and original at the same time? You bet!”

The first four tracks on the album may fool the listener into thinking GT Scragg’s semi-nasal twang and rhythm guitar with the accompanying music set down by Chris Chew on upright bass and Noah Gietka on lead guitar are all elements combined into a ‘70s country-rock outfit. Mike Minnick’s minimalist approach to adding drums drives that feeling home, and there are elements of piano and pedal steel sprinkled in by Jeremy Lawton. Kerry Pastine also adds a feminine touch to the vocals in two of the tracks.

Once those tracks are finished, the album shifts dynamic into a genuine classic country sound with “Kentucky Wine,” which would have sounded right in place in the Grand Ol Opry of the early ’50s, back when country music was still a forefather of rock music.  Following this track are a handful of rockabilly gems as authentic as anything recorded in this century could be with the upbeat boogie-woogie style of “Dixie,” the toe-tapper “White Trash Girlfriend,” and the upped tempo of “Porch Light,” while similar songs bridge them all together. The CD is then closed out with “Be My Baby v.2” and winds down the mood with a slow, slinking guitar and words of longing for a missed love—all in true country-rock form, of course.

Real country music, the roots music that combined with the blues to give birth to rock ‘n’ roll, has nothing to do with the top 40 hits in the genre on the radio or practically anything on CMT.  It can take a while to get over the notion of Garth Brooks-style pop country and realize that there is some very honest and pure music to be found in the old standards—a concept that GT and the Sidewinders stay true to in the album. B+ | Jason Neubauer

RIYL: Hank Snow, Johnny Cash, The Stray Cats

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