Volebeats – Country Favorites
Odds-and-sods compilations are usually meant to satisfy hungry fans, soak bucks from doting legions, give bands something to shill on tour, or clear the decks of a particularly prolific act.
But none of those reasons fits Country Favorites. To date, the Volebeats’ greatest claim to fame is that they opened a leg of tour dates for Whiskeytown during the Great Alt-Country Scare of 1997; since then, Jeff Oakes, Matt Smith and friends have released just two albums and played a handful of shows.
But if you’re an aficionado of Detroit twang-pop, you’ll recognize several songs on this collection (and I’ll suggest you find a new hobby). Sure, I dug the tuneful shuffle “One I Love” when it cropped up on the embryonic Bloodshot comp Hell-Bent, and I liked “Hamtramck Mama” well enough too (at least as far as goofy odes to Polish hookers go). But this is pale fluff compared to the band’s last LP, the unsung but stellar Mosquito Spiral.
A good bit of Country Favorites is consumed with applying the typical Volebeats treatment — lots of jangle, reverb and vocal harmonies — to a variety of esoteric covers. Serge Gainsbourg’s “Manon” and Slayer’s “Die By The Sword” don’t fare too well, the Roky Erickson-penned “I Had To Tell You” and Abba’s “Knowing Me Knowing You” are better, and the shimmering, six-minute instrumental version of Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” is best of all. But that, too, was previously released by Bloodshot.
Some of the few originals sprinkled throughout are heretofore unheard, but none are essential. As a result, it’s hard to imagine what makes this disc worthwhile. Memo to the Volebeats, wherever you are: Come back, and bring a real record with you.