Randy McAllister and the Scrappiest Band in the Motherland – Paperbag Salvation
10 songs – 47 minutes
If there was any justice in this world, East Texas singer Randy McAllister would be a household name in the world of modern music. Sadly, of course, there isn’t and he isn’t. The good news however is that he continues to release records as good as Paperbag Salvation for us all to enjoy.
Paperbag Salvation features 10 tracks, all written by McAllister, who adds his potent harmonica to three of those tracks. He is also a fine drummer, although he only picks up the sticks on this album on “South North South”, laying down a gorgeous upbeat grinder groove. His band, however, are all top-drawer musicians themselves, with Brandon Hudspeth on guitars, Paul Greenlease on bass, Adam Hagerman on drums and Heather Newman on backing vocals. Named the Scrappiest Band in the Motherland, together they lay down a series of righteous rhythms and Hudspeth’s slide guitar playing in particular is incendiary, meshing perfectly with McAllister’s soul-filled roadhouse voice. Newman’s understated contributions also add significantly to overall enjoyment of the album – her screams on “Waiting Bones” are worth the price of admission by themselves.
The album is superbly recorded and mastered by Duane Trower at Weights and Measures Soundlab in Kansas City.
What sets Paperbag Salvation apart, however, is the quality of the songwriting. McAllister writes blues-infused songs that successfully tread the fine line between blues, soul and rock and he has a knack of coming up with clever and original phrases and perspectives in his lyrics. The opening song, “You’re Like Mashed Potatoes” taps into everyone’s inner child as McAllister exclaims to his love: “You’re like mashed potatoes, I just can’t get enough. No matter how hard I try, it’s never too much.” The toe-tapping “Personal Pinata” reminds the listener to keep a positive mental attitude when pursuing love, despite the inevitable setbacks – “Take a few whacks until I crack, spill my insides but I keep coming back.” And perspective is the essential message of the closing “Best Patch Of Grass” with its infuriatingly catchy chorus of “The greenest grass might be where you are right now. You might be the envy of every cow.”
“Most Irritating Person In The World” directly addresses the kind of individual that everyone recognizes, with simpatico guitar from Howard Mahan sounding as irritated as McAllister’s narrator. A series of key changes help to intensify the exasperation caused by the title character.
McAllister is a masterful singer, fully inhabiting each song, sounding convincingly and alternatively besotted, furious, vulnerable, confident, resigned, determined, wise and bemused.
These are beautifully written and played songs, recalling other modern masters like Rick Holmstrom and Eric Lindell in their spare instrumentation, smart lyrics, sophisticated structures and deeply emotional performances.
One of the most impressive albums of the year.