It takes approximately 15 seconds before prison is mentioned on the new Liar’s Trial album, Friends In No Places. This should come as no surprise: the Milwaukee country band named its 2016 album Songs About Momma, Trains, Trucks, Prison, And Gettin’ Drunk, a reference to the spoken word bit in David Allan Coe’s classic “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” But what is surprising is just how well the group continues to combine a classic country sound with something darker and more modern. One minute you’re listening to Coe, Willie, and/or Cash crackling over a beat-up radio in a beat-up diner in the middle of nowhere circa 1975; the next you’re in a David Lynch fever dream circa 2019.
Let’s start with the former. Opener “That Ain’t Livin'” is a bright and twangy ode to following your dreams and telling the daily grind to shove it. The gnawing guilt of life on the road is the subject of the equally toe-tapping “The Road I’m On,” which features a typically bellowing vocal from frontman Bryan T. Kroes. (“I’m guil-TAYYYYYYY!”) Then there’s the almost-too-good-to-be-true “I’m Too Lonesome (To Play Those Lonesome Songs).” Does the song name check classic country artists? Yes it does. Is it stuffed with steel guitars, fiddles, and winsome backing vocals? Yes it is. Does it have a chorus that should be blasting from every honky tonk in the country? You bet it does. (Oh yeah, Coe himself is the subject of the hilarious album closer, “David Allan Coe Put Me Back On The Wagon.”)
Then there’s the darker material. Songs like “Walls Come Down,” “Just Me And The Silence,” and “Fire On The Horizon” may not be as jukebox-friendly as the other tracks, but they show a more sinister and gothic side to Liar’s Trial that should appeal to fans of, say, The Handsome Family. Also, try not to picture the red drapes of Twin Peaks‘ Black Lodge fading up with opening guitar chord of “I Don’t Deserve Love.”
Liar’s Trail have a busy week ahead of them: they’ll play Stolley’s Hogg Alley in Oconomowoc July 12; McAuliffe’s Pub in Racine July 13; and Shank Hall in Milwaukee July 16. (The first two gigs will be with legendary country songwriter/producer Billy Don Burns; a cover of Burns’ “Diablo’s Highway” appears on Friends In No Places.) Before those shows, sober up, hop in your truck, pick up your momma from prison (in the rain), and listen to the new record below.