The latest offering from the legendary Hillbilly Casino came in 2010 with the release of Tennesse Stomp. This album follows hot on the vapor trails of the smoking “Sucker Punched” in 2006 and “Three Step Windup” in 2008. Tennessee Stomp is the definitive key focal point in the history of the band with all founding members in attendance. Nic Roulette (vocals), Ronnie Crutcher (guitarist), Geoff Firebaugh (bass), Andrew “D” Dickson (drums).
With the complex guitar chords of a seasoned veteran guitarist, Ronnie “the Crutch” Crutcher lights into the opening lead track “Debt with the Devil”. The statement is clear from this point forward, the welcome mat is laid before the listener; and a vaguely familiar hand is extended to guide your steps into the underground grassroots movement of the Nashville, TN music scene. Crutcher wielding his signature Gretsch Billy – Bo Jupiter Thunderbird guitar with a deep passion and surgical precision, he leads the core of this band as it surges forward into the face of the crowd.
The familiar deep slap bass sounds of rhythm genius Geoff Firebaugh reassure the listener they have found their home. Watching Firebaugh, the audience will become mesmerized by his lightning fast changeups and blurred hands; his cascading blood red mohawk spilling forward from his sweaty brow as he greets each song cements him in a bond with his instrument few will rival. Firebaugh is known the world over for his vast musical contributions throughout the years. His trademark custom built Blast Cult bass adorned in an homage to the early days of skateboarding with its custom white and gold flake paint job.
Closing your eyes the visualization of Nic Roulette on stage leading the charge, his eyes a sinister gaze forward, his heart beating double time and the sweat spilling from his forehead are to see a true front man with the pedigree like no other. His onstage vocal range, twang and unsettling airborne antics are the kind that would leave even vintage high flyers grounded and scratching their heads with jaws wide open in awe. Time and time again Roulette summons a levitating spirit from deep within his core and systematically defies gravity as he holds court during the Hillbilly Casino set list.
“D” on Drums, Andrew Dickson the consummate professional with his focus deeply centered on the backbone of the band. His drumming could easily be likened to the iconic Buddy Rich. He is pronounced in his methodology, tack sharp in execution and personifies true musicianship on its many levels. This was the final album for “D” as he moved on into the Hillbilly Casino Hall of Fame, which gave rise to yet another similar talent with a grittier style – Enter Matt Arnn.
Matt Arnn, the current drummer for the Casino entered in late 2012, with big shoes to fill Matt stepped to the plate on home turf in Nashville, TN and solidified the final bond. The void was filled. Matt brings a profound energy to the band which has its foundation rooted in the neighboring support act of “Hellfire Revival”. Matt’s style is a comforting urgency, it calls to the listener and inexplicably the listener responds. Matt’s thunderous solos are legendary, his head raging back n forth, tattooed arms flailing wildly about with surgical precision and a hungry lost glare in his eye. I can’t help but remember the Muppet Show, Matt Arnn is the human equivalent of Animal.
Hillbilly Casino is a band for all occasions. In today’s marketplace we are quick to label a band in a specific genre; this is a trend that does not fit the marketing strategy of the Casino. From the opening track of “Debt with the Devil” and the sinister undertones it lays before you; the tempo is quickly changed to the familiar yet quirky sounds of “80085”. The band teeters precariously between Ameripolitan, Rockabilly, Traditional Country and Roots Country at times. Where it sits next and the songs to follow are to be determined, timing of the next release appears as the only uncertainty. The only certainty with the Hillbilly Casino is the formula works and the band proves this with each respective track. Don’t let the Casino fool you, the songs are not for the faint at heart; the realism is palpable and the stories are not so much stories as “The Ballad of Psycho Steve” and John Rich will attest. The song is a firsthand account of a late night encounter with the bubble gum pop country “star” that got too big for his boots and had to be dealt with. The Hillbilly Casino is joined on this track by Legendary Lonestar Troubadour Dale Watson doing vocals.
Hillbilly Casino is an acquired taste for any listener. Like the roots of the “Volunteer State” the Hillbilly Casino has its roots built on the community staples; good music, down home bbq and good old fashioned moonshine. You owe it to yourself to try a dose of the Casino today and get hooked on a honest musical styling few and far between in today’s marketplace.