Nobody in Texas produces foot-tapping honky-tonk music quite like Eleven Hundred Springs. Their latest record, This Crazy Life, is a rumbling heap of sawdust and country thump positivity.
The 11Hondo catalog is full of albums and songs that exude the type of music that built places like Gruene Hall and Luckenbach. Lead singer and guitarist, Matt Hilyer, has a plaintive Gram Parsons type wail and Waylon’s nimbleness on the Tele. Hilyer and company manage to sound traditional without sounding dated which is a large task they accomplish seemingly effortlessly. Bouncing backbeats mingle with rolling Waylon-esque guitar-riffs throughout the album.
This collection kicks off with the title track. A plucky acoustic guitar slides around electric guitars, steel guitar and a tinge of fiddle. The lyrics are a comment on the musician’s vagabond lifestyle and how the protagonist would like to have a traditional lifestyle…when he’s older. But, as for now he’s going to happily lead the crazy life of the road. “Great American Trainwreck” is somewhat of a follow-up to the opening title track. It details the seedier side of life on the road with the type of music backing it that make you realize had this band been around in the 70’s they’d be huge.
The album’s first single, “Show Me The Money (Or I’ll Show You the Door)”, is the type of playful Buck Owens Bakersfield throwback tune that BR-549 and The Derailers used to excel at, but we haven’t heard enough of lately. “The OG Blues” is actually a strong waltz that laments the way things used to be. It is refreshing to see Hilyer croon and play outside the lines favored by modern country music. “High on the Town” has a guitar riff that would make Jerry Reed proud and a thumping stand-up bass stomping throughout the entire 4 minutes plus the song lasts. The influence of Bob Wills appears on “Some Things Don’t Go Together” rounding out an album’s worth of Hilyer putting his own spin on the style of his heroes.
This album rocks without cranking up the snare in the mix, and it even features the aforementioned mandolin-driven waltz. I’ve heard very few country records over the past couple years that cover so many facets of the broad-based genre so well. I for one hope that Eleven Hundred Springs continue living this crazy life and producing music this fine.