The Stone Coyotes

Red Cat Records, 2008

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


The first thought that went through my head when I listened to The Stone Coyotes’ latest album was, “there’s no way that this stuff can be good for me.”

For far too long this spring and summer, my listening habits have consisted primarily of tuneless, disjointed indie rock. Most of the stuff is a laborious listening experience; if there’s catchiness to be found, it takes at least a half-dozen listens to discover. But that stuff is supposed to be good for you -- that’s the stuff of 8.9 ratings on Pitchfork.

So much to my surprise, the first three tunes of The Stone Coyotes’ latest release, VIII, were the type of tunes that didn’t take any effort to appreciate. Their hooks smack you across your cheek and leave a mark. Around the third song, you start to view such instant accessibility as a challenge: “Of course they’re going to put the catchiest songs up in front, that’s par for the course for most bands,” I think, waiting for the inevitable decline. Then the fourth song, “The Lights of Home” comes on-- and bests the first three songs I heard. Then the fifth song, “All For Angelina” comes on -- which is so appealing, you’re willing to overlook the very familiar guitar line from The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.” And so goes the rest of the seven tracks. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

VIII will no doubt be one of the catchiest releases of 2008. It comes from a band that has formed its tightness from not only through a steady stream of paying their dues in the club circuit, but also through a family bond. The trio consists of vocalist and guitarist Barbara Keith, drummer Doug Tibbles (Keith’s husband), and bassist John Tibbles. Their style, dubbed by the band as “Patsy Cline meets AC/DC,” was infectious enough to catch the attention of novelist Elmore Leonard, who caught one of their shows at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. The band became part of Leonard’s inspiration behind 1999’s Be Cool (and the 2005 feature film), his sequel to Get Shorty.

The scammers, drunkards, and the heartbroken that populate this album would find a home in most of Leonard’s novels. Unfortunately, some of the songs here could have used Leonard’s wordplay. No matter how down and dirty the rhythm of “The Beat’s Got a Hold On Me” is, the lyrics sink the song and almost kill VIII’s momentum. Lines like “The cradle started to rock / The mouse ran up the clock” and “The beat’s got a hold on me / Yes, I hear a symphony” may have passed in the ‘50s, but today, it’s hard to listen to those lines without wincing.

However, most of the pleasure of this album doesn’t come from lyrics. It comes from the dueling guitar work from Keith and John Tibbles. It comes from Doug keeping up with the scratchy, racing guitars without missing a beat. Above all, it comes from listening to something most people have heard countless times -- a bluesy bar band --  and still creating something fresh and exhilarating. After all, you don’t listen to AC/DC for lyrical prowess. And like AC/DC, The Stone Coyotes is best appreciated on a Saturday night with a steady stream of beer and gin and tonics. VIII’s bloozy swagger may only take one listen to digest, but chances are, you’re going to be coming back for thirds and fourths.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Red Cat Records, and is used for informational purposes only.