There’s a new(ish) band in town but they sound like they’ve been here forever. The Western Express just released their debut album bringing with it 9 tracks that show the group has been working over the last few years to hone their craft, and have succeeded.
They credit their start to playing in Texas honky-tonks and their style to the classics, like Merle and Willie… yes, their music encapsulates traditional country but there is more. They simultaneously pay homage to early 90s pop country while retaining a sound that is truly current to the Texas country scene. The album takes off with the rockin, “Honky Tonk Saints”, a tune that coyly compares the dance hall to a house of worship with lyrics and a beat any two-stepper can get behind.
As the record continues, romanticized verses brush up against sarcastic lines. In “Flower of the Rio Grande” (which sounds like a surfer ballad set in the southwest), Stephen Castillo sings of a man whose love is unrequited. He shortly changes his tune on, “On Trust Me, You Can’t Trust Me”, where he hints at perhaps more impure intentions as he croons, “I’ll feed you words so sweet, they’ll rot out all your teeth”.
“Leyenda” is a moody track reminiscent of Chris Isaak and Ennio Morricone and would be at home in a modern Spaghetti Western. This song just slightly misses the mark though, as the instrumentalists feel like they are holding back a bit. There should be a dramatic solo or two to really drive home the epic narrative.
The guitar in "Loving You For A While" calls back to Dick Dale's "Misirlou", while the song as a whole sounds like a nod to The Mavericks.
"Emptying Me" transports the listener to the 70s with its groovy beat that is damn near impossible to not at least tap your foot to! Ironically, it may be one of the darker themed songs on the record, spouting double entendres about empty liquor bottles that are a metaphor for the emptiness of the song’s protagonist.
The album ends on a light note with perhaps the most quirky song of the lot, the catchy and comical, "Quesadilla Mamasita', which has a surprisingly electronic sound and is full of allusion to- you guessed it- TexMex!
Castillo holds it down as the front man but shouldn't be wary of letting the rest of the band show their chops. Next release, we need more of Devon Canady's Tony Rice inspired picking and some baritone backup vocals from bassist Phillip Brush. With a variety of tracks that feel just as good two stepping to at the hall as they do listening to while driving in your car, Lunatics, Lovers & Poets, runs the gamut and keeps you tuned in from beginning to end.
The album is already receiving a warm reception and it seems like all that praying to the "Honky Tonk Saints" is working out for The Western Express.