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Review: Two Dollar Pistols – Hands Up!

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Two Dollar Pistols
Hands Up!

Released: May 18, 2004
Yep Roc Records
3.9 out of 5 Stars

Two Dollar Pitols I recently sat down with the latest Two Dollar Pistols release Hands Up!, and I could almost smell the horses, leather and smoke as I relaxed with the headphones on a lazy Saturday morning. Hands Up! Is the third full-length release by the latest incarnation of songwriter John Howie Jr.’s band that have also released an acclaimed EP with Tift Merrit simply titled The Two Dollar Pistols With Tift Merritt.

The Two Dollar Pistols sound best when they keep it traditional. Luckily, they have done mostly that with this collection of songs. A few tracks are a bit overproduced and honestly sound eerily like a resurrected Hootie & The Blowfish.
Namely, tracks #1 “To Bad That You’re Gone”, #5 “Hands Up!” and #10 “Like You Did”. I really hate to even use the “H” word in this review, because I know it can scare a whole lot of people off, but the rest of the album’s 8 tracks are near perfection.
I am not sure why there’s such a division in the sound of the above-mentioned songs and the rest of the album. It might simply be an attempt to reach past Country and Americana boundaries into a wider market, or maybe we all have some evil, repressed Hootie memories that can surface at anytime. Either way, maybe these “pop” tracks can help bring some folks into the Americana fold. Personally, I’ll skip these three songs every time.

The album was recorded at The Kudzu Ranch Studio in North Carolina and was produced by Brian Paulson who has also worked with some big names such as Wilco, The Jayhawks and Son Volt. Most of the album has strong and direct branches, which are grafted directly onto some Country music’s healthiest roots. Twangy guitars, tasteful steel pedal, tight rhythm section, drawled harmony and lyrics that are 100% about love lost and loneliness make “Hands Up!” an album worth having in your collection. In fact, if a woman has done you wrong, you can climb into a beer with this album and revel in the pain.

Two Dollar Pitols My favorite track on the record has to be “Runnin’ With The Fools”, which sounds like Hank Williams arose from his grave and walked into a modern day recording studio. It’s the kind of song that gives you a hint of what country music’s greatest pioneers would sound like today and that’s a very good thing indeed. Howie’s voice has a perfect tinge of loneliness on this track. When you combine this with the on target horse-trot percussion and first-rate steel pedal provided by Clyde Mattocks of Johnny Paycheck fame, you have a classic track that Hank would have been proud to perform. Other personal favorites include “There Goes My Baby”, “Don’t Start Me Wonderin’” and “It Doesn’t Matter Much To Me”. All in all, “Hands Up!” falls just short of 4 stars, which makes it a must-have for roots and country fans.

Track Listing:

1. Too Bad That You’re Gone
2. Runnin’ With The Fools
3. There Goes My Baby
4. Without Goodbye
5. Hands Up!
6. Lonely All Alone
7. Don’t Start Me Wonderin’
8. How’s Life (On Top Of The World)
9. It Doesn’t Matter Much To Me
10. Like You Did
11. It’s All Fun And Games (Til Someone Breaks A Heart)

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