Man am I glad I came across this band! They’re a fairly new group called Banditos, made up of six-members all in their twenties and originally from Birmingham, Alabama. The group formed back in 2010 and includes Corey Parsons (vocalist/guitarist), Stephen Pierce (vocalist/banjo player), Randy Wade (drums), Mary Beth Richardson (vocals), Jeffrey Salter (guitarist) and Danny Vines (bassist). They’re signed to Bloodshot Records and I have to share with you the story of how the label came to sign them, from the point of view of Bloodshot:
Back in March 2014 we found ourselves at one of those fly-by-night, hole-in-the-wall bars that sprout like skunkweed on Sixth Street in Austin, TX during the height of SXSW crazy. The only other patrons were Bud Light-swilling bros watching a blowout college basketball game; the sound system at this place was a painful mix of all treble and reverb; and the noises oozing out of the PA during another band’s set were not unlike the distorted echoes of the soundtrack to Suspiria (and not in a good way). We wish we were kidding.
Then the six-piece Banditos took the stage, and even though they themselves were a little intimidating – all hair, denim, and stoic determination – the sounds they managed to conjure from two overworked speakers were fresh, raw, and spectacular. We were instantly blown away and immediately started concocting ways to lure them into our fold…
That’s a pretty neat story and it’s always nice to hear stories like this where a label gives a band the shot they deserve. Despite being together since 2010, they just now released their debut album, which is self-titled. Previously they had released multiple EPs. The most simple way to describe their music would be a combination of southern rock and country music. But if you dig deeper you realize there’s a lot of genres influencing their music. You can hear influences from 60s blues, garage rock, bluegrass, soul and even some 50s doo-wop. This all comes together to create an absolutely thrilling album.
The album kicks off with “The Breeze,” which gives you a great taste right away of the fusion of southern rock and country music that the Banditos make. It’s fast-paced, rollicking and pulls you right in. Banditos showcase their bluegrass side with “Waitin’,” as a banjo helps play the song in. Mary Beth Richardson takes the lead on vocals on this song and her voice reminds me a lot of Shovels & Rope’s Cary Ann Hearst and a touch of Tami Neilson. Richardson’s voice is powerful, yet has a roughness that gives her voice character. You could pretty much throw any note at her and she could nail it. The next song “Golden Grease” is an interesting song about a man struggling with his inner self and wondering why a woman continues to be so cold to him. It certainly paints an interesting image in the listeners’ heads, making you wonder if the man himself or the woman is causing more pain to him. The instrumentation on this song is fantastic.
Remember before when I said Richardson is a talented vocalist? It becomes pretty clear on “No Good,” a song about a woman with a bad reputation that is beautifully written. Richardson’s vocals on this song are absolutely phenomenal and it’s just something you have to hear for yourself. Words cannot do it justice. This is arguably the best song on the album and one of the best performances I’ve heard from a female vocalist this year. “Ain’t It Hard” features more great songwriting and vocals. What impresses me so much about the songwriting not just on this song, but the entire album is how mystique surrounds each line and you don’t know what’s coming next. It’s especially evident on this song, with the instrumentation helping create a mysterious air throughout it.
One of the most fast-paced songs on the album and really one of the most fun is “Still Sober (After All These Beers).” It’s about a man who wants to quit his lifestyle of getting wasted every night and waking up with a stranger in his bed after a one-night stand. It all started when he was 17 and it has spiraled out of control since then. Despite wanting to get on the path of the straight and narrow, he continues down the path he’s on. This is definitely one of my favorite drinking songs of the year. “Long Gone, Anyway” is a light-hearted tune about death. Yes, I know this is an oxymoron. But it makes sense. The moral of the song is death can come at any time, so it’s important to live life to the fullest and to not be afraid of death. It’s a short song with a simple point that is conveyed well.
Richardson takes the lead vocals on “Old Ways,” a song about a woman waiting for a man to open his eyes after a night of passion. She’s hoping that he enjoyed the night as much as her and that he says she stayed until morning. By the end of the song, it’s revealed that the man had a trouble past and that this woman is here to wipe that away. It’s a unique love song that shows a lot of love in the lyrics and the vocals. “Can’t Get Away” is about a man on the road coming home to his love at home. He realizes after contemplating calling up some other girls that he’s already got a girl at home that he loves a lot. The instrumentation is quite catchy on this one and makes it easy to get this song stuck in your head. But this is a good thing!
One of the most country songs on the album is “Blue Mosey #2” and again I’m impressed with the songwriting. It’s a song about a man who has watched his friends move on, is alone and doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do next. Everything in this song works together well to create the perfect mood and feeling Banditos are going for on this song. Just like “Long Gone, Anyway,” “Cry Baby Cry” is a short song with a simple theme. It’s about a man helping a woman through a breakup by telling her all of the stuff she’s going to go through now and how tears will fall no matter how hard you try to hold back. It’s a fun song that is easy to get into. The final song on the album is “Preachin’ To The Choir.” And folks it’s another doozy of a song. It’s about a man who has clearly went through pain and he’s not in any mood to take advice from anyone, as by the end of the song he tells everyone they’re just preaching to the choir. He wants to deal with this his way and no one else’s way. It’s a powerful song and closes this excellent album out with a bang.
Banditos’ self-titled debut album is one hell of a way for this group to introduce themselves to everyone. It’s strong throughout, from beginning to end. It can be really easy to get wrapped up in the melting pot of instrumentation that is so great on this album. But then you would miss out on the best part and that is the lyrics. They are so well-written, but like I said if you don’t listen closely you could miss out on them easily. It took me a few listens to grasp them, but once I did I could feel this album. And it feels pretty damn good. I’m not sure what genre you should put them under, but who cares? This is just awesome music that you need to hear. I’m excited about this group, as I think their future is very bright. Banditos is one of my favorite discoveries of 2015 and you definitely need to check them out.