Sounding like the neat splicing of two one-man bands, The O's are Texan duo Taylor Young and John Pedigo. With a sound built around an ability to play as many roots country instruments as possible, simultaneously, these guys have the characteristic energy and busy-ness of the one-man band approach. With the kickdrum pounding away, the banjo being picked furiously and the raucous vocals harmonising above the acoustic guitar, you'd be double checking to make sure they hadn't hid some extra band members somewhere.
That's the root sound summed up but there's plenty on this record to suggest the guys have discovered there's more to music-making than blasting the audience with impressive virtuosity. In amongst everything else they play a lowebro, which as far as I can make out is a kind of home-made lapsteel, and the sound it provides gives space and grace to the guys' music. The song that closes the album, No Troubles Left At All, is a cheerful little number and the guys keep it simple and low-key as the lowebro skips down the road into the sunset with a song in its heart. It's a nice counterweight to the more frenetic numbers and suggests these guys are really stretching their wings as they discover the possibilities of their musical abilities.
Somewhere along the way, one reviewer compared The O's to Counting Crows and I reckon that was pretty astute. Taylor and John have a rock and roll heart, an ear for pop music and a love for the country heart of American music, all elements that you can hear in Counting Crows' music. When Taylor talks about their music being like singing a Louvin Brothers tune from a rooftop at 4am, that sums the whole thing up, too. They can hear the thread that ties the Louvin Brothers to modern rock and this is their way of interpreting that thread. From the dark and threatening sound of their song In Numbers We Survive to the hillbilly throwback of We'll Go Walkin, it's all there.
On record, there is sometimes so much going on you can't quite picture how two guys are managing to stitch it all together; you can also hear the energy and enthusiasm that would make them great to catch live. As they're back in Britain and Ireland in the early summer, that opportunity is coming soon.
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