Album Review: Chris Shiflett – West Coast Town

Chris Shiflett, lead guitarist for legendary band Foo Fighters, has parlayed his rock n’ roll prowess into West Coast Town, his third solo album—a countrified collection of ten tracks produced by Dave Cobb, which follows his last offering of classic honky tonk tune covers, All Hat and No Cattle, released in 2013.

The gates are flung wide from the first notes of opening rocking rambler “Sticks & Stones.” Driving percussion and melodic walking bass lines provide a solid foundation for each song, while electrified guitar licks tickle the ears, and yearning pedal steel weaves itself into the spaces, creating excitement and emotion before you even realize you have the feels. Shiflett’s vocals are edgy, with a devil-may-care snarl, and you know he is, unapologetically, who he is.

Shiflett doesn’t mince words in his lyrics; the brutal honesty in his storytelling comes through loud and clear, no matter the subject. “So make any threat you want/What can you take that you ain’t got/Call your lawyer, call the cops/All you want is what you’re not,” he sings in “Sticks & Stones,” recounting a matter-of-fact ending to a volatile relationship. He sings of his working-class hardscrabble hometown in the album’s title track, recalls being junk-sick, heartbroken, and hungover in the dark minor chords of “I’m Still Drunk,” ruminates on the lack of happy endings in “Cherry,” and relays drug highs and wild nights on “Tonight’s Not Over.”

Though the lyrics are blunt and don’t paint a completely positive picture of a shiny, happy life, the tunes are dancehall-worthy bangers, at ease in a brawling Rust Belt barroom or in a Texas honky tonk propelling two-steppers across a sawdust-covered floor. It seems everyone is going country these days, especially dyed-in-the-wool punks and hard rock heroes; while some artists’ attempts sound contrived, Shiflett shines in this hybrid of muscular guitar-driven Americana. After all, Americana is the embodiment of honesty and authenticity, and whether the tales told on West Coast Town are Shiflett’s own or someone else’s, he relays them with conviction and fire.

Purchase West Coast Town, out April 14th via SideOneDummy Records: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/west-coast-town/id1207523497

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Susan Hubbard

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