You know what city is proving to be a boon for great alt-country/rock-influenced country? Detroit, Michigan. The most notable album of course to come from a band based out of Detroit this year is Whitey Morgan’s Sonic Ranch, a top contender for our album of the year award. Then there was the underrated debut album from the duo Whiskey Charmers, which you need to check out if you haven’t done so. And now the debut album from Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils. Lead vocalist Westwood started out with Detroit gospel, before moving onto the gritty bars of Detroit where this gospel sound met the rocking country sound of these bars and led to the music on their debut album Greetings From This Town. Her band mates are no slouches themselves, as JD Mackinder, Dylan Dunbar and Ken Blaznek are seasoned performers too. Mackinder has spent the majority of his last ten years touring with Whitey Morgan and the Deadstring Brothers. So there’s a lot of talent with this up and coming band. And it definitely shines through on their debut album.
Greetings From This Town opens up with “Bad Luck Charm,” a rocking country song with plenty of catchy and pleasing guitar licks. This is followed by “Living on the Fringe.” The song is about a woman who is working a job she hates and living life on the fringe. It’s definitely a gospel-influenced song, as the organ plays in the background throughout the song. Credit to Mackinder and Dunbar for delivering again some great guitar licks. Westwood and the Handsome Devils cover an old Eddie Rabbitt classic in “Driving My Life Away.” The song was a huge crossover success for Rabbitt when he released it and has been covered numerous times before, including a Rhett Akins cover. Covering a song like this one takes guts and while I don’t think this matches the original (in fairness, no one can match the original), it’s one of the best covers I’ve heard of it. I think Westwood and the Handsome Devils do a great job of honoring the song and making it their own too.
“Round and Round” is another song with heavy gospel influence. The song is about a woman going round and round in her head about what she should do next in her life. The instrumentation is once again top-notch. The upbeat and punk rock-influenced “Cowgirl Blues” and “Ventilator Blues” are next. Both songs shine in the instrumentation department with flying colors and Westwood’s vocals are pretty good too. But I was left wanting a little more in the lyrics department with both too. Throughout the album I rave about this instrumentation, but the song I think features it the best in this area has to be “Divorcee.” It’s so catchy, hard-hitting and fun that it’s impossible not to get wrapped up in it. The song itself is about a divorcee who is glad to put her marriage behind her and ready to move onto better things. It’s an anthem for those who are divorced and proud to be out of terrible relationships. This is definitely one of those songs where you play it loud and let your hair down so to speak.
Westwood and the Handsome Devils slow it down with “Sinner Part Time.” It’s your classic drinking song, where you’re not afraid to sit down and drink sometimes, hence the name “Sinner Part Time.” It’s a pretty solid all-around song. The smoky feeling “Wade in the Water” follows this and features the best vocal performance from Westwood on the album. She hits the high notes with grace and poise while the Handsome Devils do their thing in the background. It’s a perfect combination and makes for one of the most memorable songs on the album. “Nobody’s Business” is about a woman moving on from an ex and dealing with that ex trying to figure out what her business is now that they’re split. But as Westwood belts out, “It ain’t nobody’s business, but my own.” It is yet another good country rock song on the album.
The band channels Skynyrd-like southern rock with “Redneck Man.” To no surprise, they hit this out of the park too and it’s another fun song that I bet is even more fun to hear live. The album closes with “This Town,” the song where the album gets its name. It’s about growing up in a town where you can’t find “your treasure” and how everyone is just another story. In other words everyone just grows old and never achieve their dreams. It’s a realistic commentary on the average town in Midwestern America. Westwood and the Handsome Devils appropriately close the album with perhaps the best-written song on it.
There aren’t too many debut albums better than what Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils deliver with Greetings From This Town. The instrumentation is without a doubt one of the best parts of this album and band, as I would describe it as a swamp country rock sound. It’s something you need to hear for yourself. Westwood’s vocals are great and meshes with the band quite well. The sky is really the limit for this band and they’re probably only going to get better with each new album they put out. I definitely recommend checking this band out. Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils are ones to watch.