Damn! Why can’t the rest of you boogers be more like the Ded-f-ing-ringers?! We’ve had piles upon piles of great music to influence us over the last couple hundred years, and most of you are putting out shit like you never heard any of it. With the Dedringers, they’ve definitely listened to the stacks of music available in the cosmos and sure you can hear where they’ve been influenced, but it ain’t no cheap carbon copy. It’s the next step on the musical ladder that’ll lift us mortals further and further into the heavens, and despite whatever sinning they could’ve possibly done in their mere 21 years (which I’d reckon is some), Dedringers frontmen Sean Faires and Johnny Burke have already earned their honorary seats in that cloudy paradise for “Sweetheart of the Neighborhood.” At once, you hear all the best parts of the Golden Age of musicians: Townes, Neil, Dylan, the Stones, the Burrito Bros., the Byrds, John Prine and Steve Young; you hear a little splash of alt-country revivalists Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo; and then there’s a quick twist of something totally unnamable, and in all that, the cocktail they’ve concocted is all just so goddamn new and refreshing your ears don’t believe your mind’s reservoir of musical facts and history. This is something new you say. So just drink it. You listen to the album again and again, and it’s one where each song is something entirely different from the next, but there is a certain cohesiveness that makes the songs like contrasting patches on a Nashville momma’s quilt. And as the quilt’s cohesiveness belongs to the musical roots, the stitching belongs to “Sweetheart’s” tight rocking and its flowing roll. (It’s a ladder, it’s a cocktail, it’s a quilt! You get it. These things are good. This album is great. Yadda, yadda, yadda.)
I don’t want to break the album into pieces. It’s all good. Every song. But I will give a couple highlights that’ll really sell the hell out of you on this album. The title track “Sweetheart of the Neighborhood” is the sweet bless-ed song that’s going to get these guys onto the international radio waves (or intergalactic satellite waves) and as James McMurtry put it, on into “the Hollywood bowl.” It’s a dance and get rowdy song that no one couldn’t love. (I saw them play it at Austin’s Saxon Pub almost two years ago and watched as a dark dive with two drunks and a lonely ol’ gal transformed into the best town square party any little town never saw.) Next, highlight: the riff on “Institution.” It’s like they took Keith Richard’s riff on “Last Time” out drinking for the first time in its life. Make that whiskey and in a Texas barroom. Lots of it. “Josephine” is a sweet skip in the rain with the one that never got there or the one that got away. It’s a song that brings a tear and a smile to you while you say, “Uh-huh,” and wonder how these fellas can cut into the truth so easily. “Nothin’ in the World” is like any of the softer songs off “Blonde on Blonde,” “Between the Buttons,” or “Rubber Soul” after she’d been loved, beaten, healed and learned how to step the Tennessee waltz with a pistol in her boot (in a Texas barroom.) This is how “Heart of Gold” was created. Townes’s ghost came to the Dedringers. They told him a joke, and then that smiling old spirit jumped into their bodies and the Townes channelers penned “Gold.” It’s a song that seems to have come so naturally to them but does a Townes thing better then any of the others who’ve contrived to do so. And last, the closer “Come with Me” is a majestic sailboat ride in dark clouds that is so different than any of the other songs with its painful whistling hook, but so beautiful and appropriate at the same time you can’t help but thank somebody for it. It is what invites you to start the record all over. And so you do. And so you should.