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Mike Davies reviews Invisible Highway in FATEA

We are extremely grateful to Mike Davies of FATEA for his interesting review of Invisible Highway...

Artist: The Old Country Crows
Album: Invisible Highway
Label: Creeping Claw Records
Released: 8th May 2024

The Old Country Crows are a UK-based country outfit with a penchant for twang and honky tonk, this being their third album. The former is evident from the get go with lead country-rock single 'Walls Come Down' with its catchy melodic hook, the repeated twanged riff and nagging refrain "I can see the sky falling down/There's parts of it all over the ground/Don't come crying to me when the walls come down".
Their 60s inclinations are also clear on the chiming tones of 'There's Something I Forgot To Say', as much Mersey Beat as it is vintage Nashville while, adding pedal steel to the mix, the post-break up 'Cry Another Day' ("I lost you seven days ago it feels like many years/You left without a warning and didn't shed a tear/I'm staring out the window looking for your face… The kids are in the garden hiding from the cold/They want to hear an answer why you let them go/I hate to see them suffer I hate to see them pay") is a brisk jangly country jogger.
Generally they keep things short and snappy, but 'Empty' is the exception to the rule, clocking in at over five minutes, a bluesy downbeat ballad ("Empty never knows how to lose/Empty will never offer a clue/Clawing at the remnants of your life/Empty cuts through you like a knife") with wailing guitars and a big chorus finale. Then it's back to the jauntier side of things with 'Won't Be Coming Home Tonight', a hoe-down foot tapper with some fiery fiddle and a galloping Johnny Cash rhythm, that serves a nice split-up lyric spin on the title as they sing "clap your hands and stamp your feet/Pack away your misery/I won't be coming home tonight".
There's more pedal school and fiddle for the old school honky tonk of 'Thinking Of You', the touchstone influences embracing Hank Williams and Jim Reeves, before again slowing the tempo for the slow sway piano ballad 'Teardrops In The Rain', another downbeat number ("I'll keep your things by the bedside table/Your best clothes in the drawer/When the telephone rings no, she's not here anymore") that could be about a broken relationship or maybe a death.
The electric guitar twang's back for 'California Trail', a number with decided Creedence Clearwater Revival undertones (albeit filtered through a very English 60s lens) and a gold rush lyric ("The river wild is gleaming the sands are golden brown/Panning on our knees in the California heat many folks soon came to town/We're searching for our pay dirt, a fortune in the ground/In 1849 many thousands arrived and the California dream was found") and the toll it often took.
Again conjuring 6os English pop, dappled percussive rhythm carries along the acoustic 'I'd Rather It Was You', another miserable after a break-up track, that same musical backdrop informing 'Any Given Sunday' and, Pike on vocals, the more folk rock, fiddle-flavoured despair and hope storysong 'Hold On (One More Time)' ("The bell rang for motel reception, a candle flickered low/A voice spoke without pretention, there was nowhere else to go/She found the door to room twenty-seven, falling to her knees/Struck by sudden realisation, her life was hanging on the breeze …A voice at the end of the phone line, something from the past Knowing this was a clear sign, a ray of light came through at last").
As you might imagine, the bouncing 'Too Drunk To Drink' nods to classic country tropes and comes complete with honky-tonk piano, pedal steel, mandolin, fiddle and singalong chorus, the album winding up with the more blues and folk inclined 'When The East Wind Blows' with its ominous imagery ("The cracks in the ground are everywhere/Running through the spine of the earth/There's never enough for everyone/Only those who get there first") and, finally, seeing things out in rowdy style, the rock n rolling 'We'll All Be There' which patently musically anchors itself in those Merseyside and London R&B clubs of the 60s.
At the end of the day, it's more likely to get country club bookings on the UK circuit than invitations from the Bluebird Café, but anyone who keeps a stetson and cowboy boots in the wardrobe for the weekend won't be disappointed.
Mike Davies


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