Texas, Red Dirt scene punk-country band the Ottoman Turks initially began as the solo project of vocalist Nathan Mongol Wells, recording in his parent’s bathroom, using a sink drawer to support his laptop and the toilet as a desk chair (and presumably also as a toilet). The group is named for Nathan’s time in the Middle East, where he became obsessed with a cross-continental car race known as the Mongol Rally. A race that begins in the Czech Republic and ends in Russia. Many of the routes take contestants through areas that were largely part of the Ottoman Empire, hence the name.
The Ottoman Turks really began to take shape as a full band after guitarist Joshua Ray Walker joined, making the project a more electric (and eclectic) affaire. The band’s sound is suitably country, but has that Hank the Third thing going for it as well. Country smashing into punk, into metal, into rockabilly, like a demolishing rally of sound and influence where there are no winners, and everyone is a comrade in a willful exhibition of creative destruction. The only object of the rally is to see how many times a driver can hit their opponent at odd angles to send them into a tailspin and that seems to be Ottoman Turk’s philosophy as well, see how many times to can dent, torque, and spin your influences until they break down entirely or someone loses their lunch from motion sickness.
The Ottoman Turks debuted their sound to non-Texans, and Texans not in the know, in 2019 with their self-titled album and have now returned with a follow-up, Ottoman Turks II. The second full length from these carnage-reaping cowboys begins with the reverb-heavy stomp and rabble-rouser “Wound Up” which feels about as close to grunge as a country song can get, something it achieves with the help of angsty, rearing guitar hooks, which bucks and slams like it is trying to project the band into the bleachers. “Vaquero” is a clean shot of whisky-powered, punk drag ‘n roll, that tears up the freeway separating ’50s rock revival and insurgent ’70s powerpop backswing with a blistering solo in the bridge that is part wrecking ball and part lightning bolt. Dark and brooding blues-rock permeates “35 to Life” like the turpentine stink on Tom Wait’s breath as he nurses a hangover. Collapsing intersections of jazz and blues guitars combine with country swagger on the lounge act and ax-grind “Zoostack Lightnin’.” However, if you really want a straight serving of good old-fashioned country-western, you can always saddle up to the hillbilly, hip-shaking holler of “Travelin’ Blues” or the clipped amble and substance celebrating chug of “Cigarettes & Alcohol.”
You can stream and buy Ottoman Turks second album below via Bandcamp: