Sonny and the Sunsets – Longtime Companion

Band: Sonny and the Sunsets
Album: Longtime Companion
Producer: Polyvinyl Record Co.
Rating: 7

You know that summertime has arrived when twangy, country-ish ditties start flowing forth from guitar-wielding gents everywhere. There’s something about the balmy heat of this time of year, paired with rivers of cold beer and cowboy boots that seems to inspire folksy, country music, and this sophomore CD from Sonny and the Sunsets made me want to jump on a burro and ride off into the sunset.Sonny’s voice reminds me of some of Tom Petty’s early work (possibly blended with a solid dose of Bob Dylan’s storytelling), and his lyrics are fun and catchy. And smart.Despite the fact that I’m usually not a huge fan of droning, Mexi-influenced country-ish music, it was his voice that drew me back to listen to the tracks more than once, and I discovered that despite my initial knee-jerk reaction, I really didn’t hate this album. I don’t know that I’d listen to it twenty times in a row, but if it happened to roll around on my iTunes, I wouldn’t drive a mallet into my speakers to make it stop or anything. In fact, there were parts of it I actually rather liked.

The track “Children of the Beehive” had me drumming my fingers against my desk as I grinned about the lyrics, and the melancholy air of “Pretend You Love Me” was balanced well with the upbeat tempo and trilling little flute-y bits. “Year of the Cock” was a little too full of “Out in the West Texas town of El Paso” for my tastes, but I do have to admire Sonny’s guitar skills and the storytelling that was present in the song. The rhyming schemes were rather creative as well, with ‘skunky raccoon on the loose’ being chosen to rhyme with ‘goose’ in the middle of the piece. The title track, “Longtime Companion” is probably one of the best songs on the record, and one that irritated me the least, as it was devoid of plucky finger-picking and overly undulating vocals.

The narrative Sonny uses in his music is reminiscent of DeVotchka’s work, only with less absinthe and a bit more straw in his teeth, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Sonny has a soft spot for the Man in Black himself as well.I hear a lot of Latin America in this album. I hear folk influences, the shades of bright embroidery on Mexican skirts, the slow heat of noon in the middle of July, all built on rocky Colorado foundations (with an extra helping of banjo on the side). Take a mountain boy and drag him through southern deserts, and this is what you’ll end up with: turquoise wrapped in plaid, and dust clinging to a guitar. All in all, it’s a sweet, non-offensive record that’s well suited to summery patios, and generous servings of tequila.

The good stuff, though.

Lana Winter

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