"It ain't about what happened here/No, it ain't about what just went down/ The only thing, let me make this clear/Is that we pick ourselves off of the ground." With these words, Eddie Spaghetti begins the tenth album from his band the Supersuckers, 2015's Holdin' the Bag, and the lyrics have particular resonance if you know Spaghetti was battling a rare form of throat cancer in the months that preceded the recording of the album. These days, Spaghetti sounds like a thick-skinned survivor in more ways than one, and while Holdin' the Bag is ostensibly a country album (much as 1997's Must've Been High sounded like some bonged-out variation on Lone Star country), most of the songs recall the Supersuckers' usual brand of high attitude, middle-finger rock, only performed with a less aggressive approach, as acoustic guitars, fiddles, banjos, and steel guitars make their way into the arrangements alongside the usual Les Pauls and Marshall amps. The humor and snark of Spaghetti's songwriting hasn't changed much, but the lyrics sound tougher and more determined here, and in a time when it's harder for a band like the Supersuckers to make a living, Spaghetti sounds all too aware of the odds stacked against him in his life and career, and it certainly seems to be getting under his skin on numbers like "That's How It Gets Done" and "Man on a Mission." (In the liner notes, Spaghetti pointed pledges "to keep the quality coming [...] even if it's only for a few good fans out there," and cryptically thanks three former bandmates "for no longer being in the band.") But despite the added grain in the edges of Spaghetti's voice, his vocals sound remarkably good given the circumstances under which this album was made, and guitarist "Mountain" Marty Chandler and drummer Captain "All-Nighter" Von Streicher are certainly up to this band's strong standards, attacking this music with the right degree of force that lurks somewhere between old-school twang, arena-sized crunch, and punk rock ferocity. Holdin' the Bag isn't quite the country album Spaghetti had in mind, but it's very much the work of the Supersuckers (even if Spaghetti is now the only original member), and it sounds street smart and thoughtful as it acknowledges past glories and the slowly narrowing road that lies ahead.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming