While compiling yesterday’s playlist, I came across a quite distinctive version of “Bizarre Love Triangle” – turned into a country tune! Naturally then I was curious to know more about the musicians who’d brought about that improbable transformation with a considerable panache, and so I made a first acquaintance with The Give ’em Hell Boys, a band hailing, as odd as this may sound, from Edmonton in Canada. Although it is represented on the usual Internet platforms, with pages on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Myspace, and Facebook, a great deal of biographical background is not provided, and the bits that are – on the last of these, the names of the band members are given as being San Quentin, Charlie Scream, Doctor Proctor, Barn Jovi, and Bootsy Cline – are suggestive of a sense of humour that tends to uncover the inadvertently funny sides of many things and to deprecate much of the rest: an attitude that is met with rather often in the domain of country music, and without which its bleaker sense of the realities of life, love, and loss might be hard to take.
All the more is this so when the country music in question, as their website avers, emerged from a slew of late night jams and backyard BBQ’s as a unique brand of twang punk, a variety of this music in which, in other words – for those who’re encountering the term “twang punk” for the very first time – there’s been a merging of classic and outlaw country styles with breakneck bluegrass rhythms and punk rock attitude. Well, these words too could sound a bit improbable, but after listening to their debut album, Barn Burner, one may find oneself agreeing that it’s not an idle description.
The Give ’em Hell Boys have begun to make modern-day ballads about people who raise hell in the streets, drink beer and get into trouble – and their blues can veer rather far into the dark.
These dimmer regions pervade numbers like “North Saskatchewan Blues.”
Or “Come Lately.”
And in their cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” it’s a similar territory in which one finds oneself.