McKay Brothers

Cold Beer & Hot Tamales

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On only their second album, native Texans the McKay Brothers already show an affinity for great Americana-music producers. Their debut LP was helmed by Gurf Morlix, the well-heeled producer and guitarist who has nurtured the vision of, among others, Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard (of "Redneck Mother" fame), and Robert Earl Keen. On this album they turn to legendary Texas producer Lloyd Maines (also a prominent steel player and father to a Dixie Chick). Maines captures a real, stripped down, live-in-the-studio feel for the brothers' mix of guitar-lashed country, roots rock, and Tex-Mex tales of drinking, more drinking, love gone wrong, and drinking gone real wrong. "Bottle of Fire" is a slab of modern electric country ("I lost my license, I hopped on a lawn mower and I headed to the liquor store to get a bottle of fire." That's how the song starts, and you can imagine where it goes from there.) "Silicon Baby" is a caustic piece of roots rock that sounds more alt country than country ("Do they stand up when you lie down. How do they make you feel?"). The brothers also lilt into some Spanish-sung tracks on Cold Beer & Hot Tamales, an album that could be seen as trafficking in Texas lyrical clichés, were it not for the McKay Brothers commitment to, and belief in, their own little mythologies. Hollis and Noel have a charisma and simplicity that really come across here; they don't possess the weighty poeticism or edginess of a lot of their Texas troubadour predecessors, rather they fit in that vein of earnestness and plain-spoken storytelling that Robert Earl Keen has staked out. While not exactly innovators, they do what they do well.

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