The Highballers 'Self-Titled' - Woodshed

A Telecaster toting neo-country band from Washington fronted by vocalists Kendall Jackson and Victoria Patchen. They formed in 2007 and the current line up has put out this their second album of harmony laden, driven catchy country songs.  The ten songs, all written by Jackson, bar one outside song, have a familiarity that makes them immediately likeable. The lead vocals are shared with Patchen - taking lead mic on songs like Lula's Gone a song that fairly rocks with an nice interplay of twang and jangle under Patchen clear and concise vocal. Jackson also has a strong voice that gives meaning to these songs. Producer Don Zientara builds everything up from a solid rhythm section base and adds Sean Lally's vital guitar to give the songs their much appreciated dose of Tele twang. Guests on one song include Bobby Birdsong's pedal steel and Jackson Edwards harmonica. 

King Of The Plains seems to be about an alien encounter while more down to earth is Can't Stop Drinkin' about a man who can't do anything because of his need for a cold one in his hand. Maybe as a result of that the next song is an uptempo song that hopes that things could be like the used to be in I Want You Back. But when that don't work something this is more of a direct action is espoused on I'll Break Something More Than Just Your Heart. Again Patchen delivers an impassioned vocal. Jackson gives the other side of the story with I Need My Ass Kicked another hi-speed bar-room. The 60s styled One Damn Thing has Farfisa organ and Patchen's era specific backing vocals under pinning it's overall feel of a time when country and garage-pop were logical bedfellows - shades of Southern Culture On The Skids.

This band have a retro heart that has been jump started to have it's place for today's audience. They sound like they're having fun and any audience that encounters them will reciprocate. With classic country as your base you can't move too far from the template before it becomes something else entirely. The Highballers don't do that what they do do is to sing and play with a conviction and heart that makes their music something to enjoy. Can't ask for more than that in a lot of cases. They have, as the opening song says Fire and Smoke, well the fire anyway.

The Highballers 'Soft Music and Hard Liquor'- Woodshed

The title here might easily be reversed here to "hard music and soft liquor". The Highballers have a sound that throws back to the times when the term cow punk was more widely used to describe a hybrid of rock and country played with energy and drive. The band have evolved from their beginning in 2007. Chief song writer and vocalist Kendall Jackson has led the band since then and has a voice honed in honky-tonks and bars to a level of believability and bash. A key factor here is the harmony and unison singing of Victoria Patchen who does a fine job of adding depth to the vocals. Add to that the Telecaster twang attack of guitarist Sean Lally and the robust rhythm bed of Michael Barrientos and Drake Sorey. All show a love for country music as well as for elements of punk, garage rock, rockabilly and other influences which they have blended into something that feels right for them and with enough twang to make it appeal to country music fans the world over. It's not the 50/60s retro fitted sound that some bands use. Rather it's a template that's been tried and tested right back to the early eighties and with numerous bands who took their lead from Rank 'n' File and Jason and The Scorchers, but one that is still valid. The songs equally fit the bill with titles like Doing Time In Pennsylvania, The Price You Pay, I Didn't Mean To Get Drunk or Close To The Line. These are songs that are not without some humour and honesty. All in all The Highballers are an all round package. Though a lot of the album is taken at an uptempo pace they can do slower songs like Virginia and Better Man with ease and without going too soft. The album closes in the spirit (pun intended) of the album title with I Take Pride In My Drinkin'. An unashamed ode to a vocation that seems central to the Highballers sound and vision.