The cool country
As an ironclad piece of musical Americana, country music is starving to be rediscovered. When one considers the latest flux of “Southern pop” singers whose commercial sound barely hides behind a cowboy facade, there seems to be plenty of room for country to be properly re-energized.
With this ethic in mind, Reno’s own Hellbound Glory is doing a fine job of reminding us of the gut-wrenching, goodtime energy the country art form once held.
As Hellbound Glory, Leroy Bowers (guitar/vocals), Richard Tarantino (stand-up bass), Adam Steele (pedal steel) and Chico (drums) all have significant backgrounds in different localized music scenes. Not only do they bring vibrancy, they also bring an honest reverence for real ol’ time country—a reverence that allows them to boast a set list of songs as long as the nose on a crooked politician. When it comes to musicianship, these guys have long histories of diverse and recognized musical projects.
Tarantino not only played guitar for Vinny The Puke and drums for the popular Reno band Dick, Bob and the Nob, he also played guitar and banjo, and is the significant songwriter for Scurvy Bastards, an eight-piece band known for playing western folk, country and traditional songs of the sea.
Chico is a transplant who moved to Reno with his band Jackbloom, only to disband upon arriving here, leaving him available to fill the drum stool for Hellbound Glory.
Hellbound’s front man Bowers played for Soilant Green, a punk band well recognized throughout the Seattle area in the mid ‘90s. In Reno, he’s probably best known as the once firecracker-footwork front man for The Trainwrecks—it’s like James Brown left the juke joint and moved right into the old boots on Bowers’ feet.
With backgrounds more rooted in punk, Hellbound’s members present a sound reminiscent to The Blasters or X (or more specifically X’s old side project, The Nitters), as well as more recent folks like Mr. Eddy Spaghetti.
Now, don’t take all the punk-rock references the wrong way. Nobody’s taking the rich American heritage of honky-tonk and turning it into a barrage of filthy misanthropic words and distortion-peddle power chords. The reason for correlating the seemingly unrelated styles of country and punk is to illustrate the point that, as the grand-daddy of punk, country did, in its day, produce its own long list of diverse, energized, whole-heartedly devoted players.
“All these new country singers,” Bowers says, “are, first off, not even country! It’s like Britney Spears with a little twang and a cowboy hat!”
Chico shares the same sentiment, saying, “It’s like what happened in the late ‘80s when metal, sadly, got watered down into bands like Winger and so on.”
As country declines and moves further and further from its roots and deeper and deeper into the glitzy world of MTV “Southern pop,” Hellbound Glory is a refreshing glimpse into the sentiments held by the creators of this true people’s poetry.
If you want to see a spark of what caused a genre to survive as long as country has managed to survive, track down Hellbound Glory (don’t worry, they play all the time), watch them kick a lot of country ass, and perhaps say to yourself, "Wow! Actually, country is really very cool!"