Conventional wisdom tells us that change is good, and there are plenty of bands that have been well served by shaking up their formula once in a while. Southern Culture on the Skids have been serving up their own distinct brand of deep-fried hillbilly rock since 1990, and the band has never failed to deliver on-stage and in the studio. But with 2016's The Electric Pinecones, SCOTS have stepped a few paces outside their usual creative boundaries, and with enjoyable results. The album's title comes from a short-lived SCOTS side project, the Pinecones, in which the bandmembers indulged their enthusiasm for folk-rock, psychedelia, and the moodier side of '60s pop. The Electric Pinecones for the most part follows the same creative template as the group it was named for, though it doesn't entirely abandon the traditional Southern Culture on the Skids approach. "Swamp Fox," "Rice and Beans," and "Baby I Like You" certain fit SCOTS' traditional creative template, and they confirm the band hasn't run short on good ideas. But the electrified swamp pop of "Freak Flag," the downbeat pop of "Dirt Road," the cool and shadowy pop-psych mood of "Grey Skies" and "Waiting on You," and the trippy Buddy Holly variant "I Ain't Gonna Hang Around" are great tunes and outstanding performances that reveal new facets of this band's talents. Two and a half decades of shows have given Southern Culture on the Skids the taut and intuitive feel of seasoned players who mesh beautifully, and Rick Miller's guitar work is as inspired and versatile as ever, while bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman remain an excellent rhythm section. The Electric Pinecones is a reminder of why Southern Culture on the Skids are one of America's most underrated rock bands -- they're great at what they do, and they have a lot more cards up their sleeve than most folks expect.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming