The Western Express – Lunatics, Lovers & Poets
While not entirely as engaging (yet) as The Mavericks, The Western Express is molded in the same potent style as The Mavericks along with generous touches of Tex-Mex & old-style country deliberation. I’m 4 songs deep in this 9-song CD & each tune is a delightful romp.
Phill Brush (upright bass on “Last Apology”) & Stephen Castillo (songwriter/vocalist) are the mainstays of this duo & they have a pure vocal approach with a touch of Raul Malo’s character. It isn’t so much country music as Texas pop music with ass-kicking leathery arrangements. The entire showcase is well-crafted.
Produced by John Evans (electric guitar/bass) the 30-minute CD Lunatics, Lovers & Poets (Drops Aug 9–Independent) is rich with fast songs & haunting Texas-balladry — “Leyenda,” is a beauty.
There’s enough commerciality to attract a mainstream audience, yet their musical approach is far deeper than prevailing tastes in music. They skate across styles explored by Los Lobos & the Tex-Mex of the Texas Tornados.
The Western Expresses’ excellent accordion & electric guitar-driven “Lovin’ You For A While,” has an essential sweetness. They continue with the Tex-Mex recipe on their humorous “Quesadilla Mamacita,” which tetters on novelty but safely negotiates the showcase fence with a performance that’s tight & focused.
Their perspective is retro storytelling that seldom fails a good countrified song. Each piece has the charm of old-school melodies & the performance has finesse. If the vocals were a little deeper on “Emptying Me,” I could hear it covered by the late country-baritone vocalist Jim Reeves or the legendary country crooner George Jones. This song would’ve been perfect for them. But the tune on this collection sparkles as is.
Song subjects are not cliched & the pacing strikes a balance. There’s familiarity but the performances aren’t heavy. Just plain inventive fun. There are a few bands as mentioned that explore this kind of music presently & in the past but not many – The Brandos, the Del-Lords, Beat Farmers, The BoDeans, Big Back 40, the old Goose Creek Symphony, Seatrain – but it takes expertise that’s a little sharper than average country. There’s little hokum though they do have humor. This is the serious flipside of country & western. It includes Tex-Mex, Tejanos & Americana with varied flavors.
The band includes Scott Davis (electric guitar/bass/keys/accordion), Geoff Queen (pedal steel guitar) & Dennis Ludiker (fiddle).
Photo courtesy of The Western Express Facebook. CD @ https://www.facebook.com/thewesternexpressband/