In my time of running Country Perspective I’ve gotten to know a lot of independent country and Americana acts. It’s taught me a lot about the trials and tribulations of an act trying to get noticed, building their audience and for some trying to snag that elusive record deal that would solve all of their problems (some are just fine being independent). The difference I’ve learned between the independent acts who “get it” and don’t “get it” are the ones that are aware of these problems and the ones that are not aware. The latter never survive and also never get featured on this site. They’re just trying to be the next Sam Hunt or Florida Georgia Line and people don’t want wannabes. The former truly believe in themselves, their music and strive to be their best by working their asses off.
The Piedmont Boys most certainly exemplify this. They started in 2007 in Greenville, South Carolina. Ever since then they’ve played thousands of shows in every location conceivable and have opened up for big names such as Eric Church and independent stalwarts like Charlie Robison. They’ve only taken one weekend off in seven years, proving their dedication to their craft. And when it comes to their brand of music they’re gritty, real and very much in the outlaw vein. They hate pop country and put plenty of steel guitar and fiddle into their music. A few months back they released their newest album Scars & Bars, an album that certainly lives up to their description. This is an album made by traditionalists for traditionalists.
The upbeat and fun “Ain’t Got No Hot Water” kicks the album off. It’s a catchy little tune about not having any hot water, but plenty of cold beer. Right away you get a good taste of how much fun this band has making music, along with their love of honky tonk music. The Piedmont Boys slow it down with “Pickens County.” It’s a love ballad drenched in fiddle and shows that the band is just as good at slowed down songs as they are at upbeat ones. “Josephine” is a reflection ballad about a man remembering a girl who was in his life and being unable to shake her memory. She’s tattooed on his mind and he’s finding it hard to move on from her. It’s a solid, mid-tempo heartbreak ballad.
The steel guitar driven “Better on Bein’ Alright” is next. It’s a song about the honky tonk lifestyle and being on the road. The instrumentation on this is really well done. One of my favorites on Scars & Bars is “Heart Don’t Fail Me.” It’s another honky tonk life song about a man knowing that if his heart doesn’t end up killing him, his liver definitely will. This sounds like something Johnny Paycheck would have cut back in his heyday. “Sweetwater” is a laid back song about taking a laid back approach to life. It’s the kind of song you play as you’re taking a joy ride down the road. Also it’s worth pointing out that they namedrop Jason Boland playing on the stereo, which is a name drop that is much better than the ones in mainstream country songs (insert pop singer here).
The Piedmont Boys sing of the drifter lifestyle again on “Free Spirit.” It’s all about looking forward to whatever town or gig is ahead, as dwelling on the past does nothing. As in all of the songs on this record, the steel guitar is aplenty. Another standout of the album is “She Prays to God.” It takes an interesting look at a heartbreak ballad, as the song is about a woman who prays to God that a man won’t take her home. Her prayers are answered and the man is left alone. This is definitely one of the deepest cuts of the album. “35” is a song about a man wondering how the hell he’s still alive at 35 after the lifestyle he’s lived. He thanks God for keeping him alive and Jack Daniels for keeping him high. If there’s one theme this band loves to sing about, it’s the honky-tonk lifestyle.
One of two live tracks on the album is “Rice, Beans.” The Piedmont Boys sing of a man living on rice, beans, cocaine and cheap whisky and listening to some George Jones after his woman left him. It’s their take on the classic drinking heartbreak song and I have to say they nail it. “Gypsy Soul” is one of the quietest on the album. It’s appropriate, as the song is about soberly reflecting back on the road travelled in life and owning up to all of the mistakes made along the way. The mandolin really sets the mood perfectly on this song. Scars & Bars comes to a close with “Bocephus,” a fitting song title, as it’s homage to Hank Williams and the South. You could view this song in two ways: It’s just as clichéd as mainstream songs about southern life or an anthem that accurately represents what the South is all about. I would describe the song as Steve Earle meets Lynyrd Skynyrd, which is a compliment. It’s a fitting closer to the album.
The Piedmont Boys’ brand of outlaw country is loud and proud on Scars & Bars. The domineering theme of the entire album is without a doubt honky-tonk life and music, something they’re very good at singing about. If you’re yearning for a style of the outlaw days, this is an album I definitely recommend checking out. It’s the anti-thesis to country radio, something The Piedmont Boys I’m sure will wear with a badge of pride.