Album Review: Banditos, ‘Banditos’
“I still get drunk and I raise some hell / But all my friends say, ‘Fare thee well,’” Banditos co-leader Timothy Steven Corey Parsons sings in a lilting, rusty twang on “Blue Mosey #2,” punctuated by frontwoman Mary Beth Richardson’s soulful howl. It’s one of the more reserved moments on the Banditos’ self-titled debut, but the lines encapsulate exactly what the Birmingham, Ala.-hailing sextet do so well: They put it all on the line like each song might just be their last.
On their first full-length, the Banditos deliver an unrelenting energy that makes every booze-soaked track sound like it was recorded live -- and rightfully so. The now Nashville-based crew have cut their teeth in countless holes in the wall that their raucous alt-country seems to embody. There’s a raw, rough-around-the-edges quality to the Banditos, who fully embrace their imperfections. That’s their bread and butter. Whereas some of their peers would perhaps opt for more pristine and at times over-wrought roots rock, the six-piece revel in every cracking twang and every fuzzy riff.
The Banditos come in raging and ready for a fight with album opener, “The Breeze.” The banjo-driven tune has Parsons announcing, “I don’t tell them where I’m going / No, I’m just gone,” almost throwing away the final words in a ragged drawl. Just as she does on “Blue Mosey #2,” Richardson echoes Parson nicely, making for an exceptional vocal team. However, by the time we arrive at the album’s second track, “Waitin’,” listeners will discover Richardson is her own force to be reckoned with. The honky tonk-esque cut showcases the sheer power and control of her blues-drenched vocals, which can either wander off in grit and gravel or a graceful, almost yodel-like effect.
“Blue Mosey #2” joins other album slowburners, like the Richardson-led laments, “No Good” and “Old Ways,” the latter of which features meandering lap steel guitar and Stephen Alan Pierce’s finely plucked banjo. They make for beautiful reprieves in an album chock full of foot-stomping fare -- arguably where the Banditos are their best selves.
If it sounds like the band is having a blast -- likely with a six-pack nearby -- it’s probably because they are. “Cry Baby Cry” drives forward with a rockabilly sensibility and piano line that splits off in time for Parsons and Richardson’s uninhibited yelps. “Still Sober (After All These Beers)” could easily be the Banditos’ magnum opus; it doesn't take itself too seriously and instead serves up a tongue-in-cheek ode to a reckless night spent at the bar with the joint plea, “Please, don’t incarcerate me!” Hell, “Long Gone, Anyway” opens with a kazoo solo -- yes, a kazoo.
Later yet on “Still Sober,” Richardson declares, “Round and round, give me some more / I ain’t gonna stop ‘til I hit the floor.” While the song may be addressing all those titular beers, it’s very much in that same vein that the Banditos approach their debut effort -- with a devil-may-care attitude that proves the Nashville six-piece won’t be letting up anytime soon.