Mike and the Moonpies – Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold Album Review
When you think of honky tonk Texas country music, Mike and the Moonpies have to be somewhere near the top of your list. Their last album Steak Night at the Prairie Rose was a triumphant collection of autobiographical country music, and a tonic to much of the Nashville country music. For their latest album, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, the band decided they needed to make a change. As frontman Mike Harmeier recently told us during his Six Shooter interview, they want to make sure they never release the same album twice. Their solution? Pack their bags and head to London.
Far from the honky tonks of Austin, the band headed to the world-famous Abbey Road, enlisted the help of the London Symphony Orchestra and put together one of the year’s best produced records. From the sweeping 70s feeling, lounge bar title track, you can feel the influence of the string section shaping the direction of the record. It’s a song that could have been lifted from a Roger Moore James Bond soundtrack… maybe it’s a London thing.
This isn’t an album that sees the band leave their country roots behind, however, skip to track two and you’ll find You Look Good in Neon, a tune that doesn’t utilise the string section quite as obviously and is drenched in country twang. The song effectively bridges the gap between Steak Night and Cheap Silver. The same can be said for If You Want a Fool Around, a heartbreak song in an unconventional way, and Fast as Lightning, a honky tonk songs that’s, well, fast a lightning. The latter is also the perfect song to compliment a trip where the band flew to France and Italy for festivals before a whistle stop two-day trip to London to record an album.
Mike Harmeier told us that most of these songs were written with the string section in mind, this perhaps explains how they fit so smoothly into the songs without ever feeling forced or like a novelty addition to the record. Danger is a great example of this, the song kicks off with a guitar riff before the strings enter and weave amongst the guitars and pedal steel.
Miss Fortune provides another highlight of the record, once again the strings just add to the richness of the song, whilst the band expertly weave their way through. Mike and the Moonpies have always been a band who’ve cut their teeth with hard work and touring, this shows in the quality of the musicianship. There’s room for guitar and organ solos as the band take it for a workout. It’s really amazing that this expertly produced album was put together so quickly.
The album finishes on London Homesick Blues, a final chance for the strings to take centre stage and stretch their legs. It’s the perfect footnote to this record. It’s the only song that really nods to the albums London roots, “I’ll substantiate the rumour that the English sense of humour is drier than the Texas sand” and is the perfect goodbye. Mike Harmeier longs for home as he sings “I wanna go home with the armadillo, good country music from Amarillo and Abilene”. You can take the boys out of Texas, but you’ll never take the Texas out of the boys.
At eight tracks, the album runs a little shorter than some, but this is testament to it being an opportunistic record, made at a time where schedules landed perfectly and the band could get into Abbey Road. They’ve lived up to their promise to make a different album to Steak Night. At first, the strings can feel a little jarring, it’s a surprising turn for the band but it’s so well produced that it just works. Well done to Mike and the Moonpies for being brave enough to try something different and make it work. See you next year, boys…
- Cheap Silver
- You Look Good in Neon
- Young in Love
- Miss Fortune
- If You Want a Fool Around
- Fast as Lightning
- London Homesick Blues
You Look Good in Neon, Miss Fortune, Fast as Lightning
Six Shooter Rating
8.5 out of 10