In the area of alt-country, few have been doing it as well and as long as Cincinnati’s 500 Miles To Memphis. Now on their fifth album, no matter how Americana, bluegrass, or country influenced they get, the rugged punk roots of their youth are always still at the surface, and here it’s more evident than ever.
The band reportedly was in limbo, perhaps on the cusp of breaking up, when the song “Bonnie” rejuvenated them back to life. A swift bluegrass romper with gang vocals and a loud, gritty backdrop, it seems like 500 Miles To Memphis are reinvented here. Further proof of their punk heritage comes in the gospel-meets-furious-guitar-hooks of “The River,” while “I Said Babe” leads as a twinkling country tune but erupts into near street punk territory.
Though the title track is more Americana influenced, albeit in a very anthemic sense, and “Piggie Boy” and “In My Chest” could soundtrack a barnyard brawl, tunes like “No Doubt” are arena-ready ragers and wouldn’t be out of place at a Dropkick Murphys show. For alt-country purists, the closing ballad “I’m A Bastard” will certainly fill any void left by Lucero and finishes the listen on a warm spirited note.
Aging punks picking up banjos is a busy scene these days, but the punk-icana that 500 Miles To Memphis makes is in a league all its own. Consider this their best album yet, and one of the first must-have records of 2019.