It's difficult for listeners to know exactly what kind of music they'll hear when they check out a new alternative country band. Honky tonk? Classic rock? Old-time country? Fronted by Dean Schlabowske of the Waco Brothers and Wreck, Dollar Store draws from a handful of subcategories to create a lively mix of rocking guitars, pedal steel, and socially with-it lyrics. The self-titled album kicks off with an angry rocker titled "New Country," a song that describes the false hope of anyone arriving in America with dreams of doing well and fitting in. The nice thing here and elsewhere on Dollar Store is that even though the lyric has a message, it never gets in the way of the music. Guitarist/vocalist Schlabowske, drummer Joe Camarillo, and bassist Alan Doughty give the impression of a bunch of guys jamming in their garage just for fun. The Dollar Store regulars are joined by a few guests, including Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel, Dave Alvin on guitar, and Celine on fiddle and mandolin. What's really cool is when all of these odds and ends come together, as in "Around the Bend," with steel guitar and fiddle inserting themselves into a rock format. The end result, whether one calls it thrash-country or country-punk, is brash and spunky. Dollar Store is the rare combo of music that connects on an emotional level while still sounding smart.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.