Various Artists — Stoned Cold Country
London and Nashville are about as far apart musically as they are on a map, but The Rolling Stones managed to bridge their gap with much of the early 70s work. Moving naturally from blues-based rock to country, Mick, Keith and company strove to push past the pop status of their British brethren and embrace more primal sounds (the simultaneous rise of outlaw country surely didn’t hurt, both musically and with its looser attitude toward, well, hedonistic behavior). And while everyone hears the twang in “Honky Tonk Women ” and “Wild Horses,” a deeper listen to those early 70s records (particularly Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street) makes those country ties even more apparent. So when Nashville-based producer (and longtime Stones fan) Robert Deaton wanted to commemorate the band’s 60th anniversary, he hit upon the idea of pairing Stones songs of varying twang with some of today’s best country artists. The result – Stoned Cold Country, a collection of 14 Stones classics that draw out the songs’ country underpinnings and allow the stars a chance to strut like Mick and shred like Keith.
Stoned Cold Country starts it up with Ashley McBryde’s straight-ahead rock take of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” full of slash-and-burn guitar licks with a little gospel-isn organ thrown in. Riffs a-plenty also show up on Marcus King’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” along with a laid-back horn section (studio musicians were selected by Deaton, and tracks were recorded quick ‘n’ dirty – much like the best Stones recordings and the looseness, spontaneity and controlled chaos are all apparent).
Not surprisingly, the most country-ish of the original songs fare well on Stoned Cold Country. Maren Morris continues to show the ability to be good at pretty much anything in her lap-steely take on “Dead Flowers.” Brooks & Dunn largely stay faithful to the original on “Honky Tonk Women” (with some knock-out backing vocals). And Little Big Town, with their ever-present four-part harmonies, digs into the melancholy love of “Wild Horses.”
The fun on a tribute album, though, comes from the more twisty takes. Rising star Lainey Wilson’s stab at “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” subs pedal steel for the French horn in the original, but the twang (and the bell bottom balliness) are all Wilson. Brothers Osborne & The War and Treaty turn “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)” into a three-way family vocal stand-off between Michael and Tanya Trotter and T.J. Osborne before brother John shreds the party with an arena-rock guitar solo. And Elvie Shane, one of the less well-known names on Stoned Cold Country, turns in an eerie, slow-simmer turn on “Sympathy for the Devil” that should bring the former American Idol contestant a new shot at leveling up. By the time the album wraps with Koe Wetzel’s gospel-tinged take on “Shine a Light,” featuring piano from longtime Stones’ touring musician Chuck Leavell, I remembered why I’ve always been a Stones guy over a Beatles guy – their mix of country and blues matched the best that Southern bands had to offer. No wonder the best of Nashville still gravitate to ‘em.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Miss You” – Jimmie Allen’s soulful take reinterprets disco-era Stones as a laid-back, late-night jam.
Go here to order/stream Stoned Cold Country (out now): https://stonedcoldcountry.lnk.to/StonedColdCountryWE