Southern Culture On The Skids has been spreading the rock and roll gospel since they formed in Chapel Hill, NC in 1983. Guitarist/singer Rick Miller, drummer Dave Hartman and bassist/singer/heartbreaker Mary Huff, play a greasy mix of surf, rockabilly, R&B and country-fried garage with a side of psych, all the while driving fans into ecstatic, sweat-drenched paroxysms of joy. It’s a musical gumbo Miller calls, “Americana from the wrong side of the tracks.” From their 1985 debut Voodoo Beach Party, to their 1988 international smash, Dirt Track Date (featuring the hit single “Camel Walk“), and now to the SCOTS-ified tunes of The Electric Pinecones, 30 years, 200 songs and 1,000,000 road miles in, Southern Culture On The Skids just continues to get better with time.
Southern Culture On The Skids’ latest album, The Electric Pinecones, was released in September of 2016. It’s the band’s fifth album and is a bit of a departure for the band conceptually and sonically. The inspiration for the record was born in an alter-ego side project from the early years of the band. “The Pinecones was folk-a-hill-a-billy garage band we used to put together just for kicks,“ Miller relates. “We loved the sound of ’60s west coast folk rock and psych bands. The Pinecones was our outlet for material that was not in the SCOTS vein. Pinecones set list was the jumping off point for this latest collection of songs.”
The first single off the album, “Grey Skies,” is a minor key mood piece with that folk-a-billy, psychedelic sound. Listen to how the acoustic 12-string riff slides into the band’s hypnotic rhythms that propel Mary Huff’s reflective vocal into the mind’s eye of times past and love lost. The lead off track, “Freak Flag,“ is more upbeat, but no less tweaked, with modulating guitars riding on pounding drums after the first verse. The song’s message is a good one – it is okay to be different and always respect yourself. “Dirt Road” is Mary’s three-minute ode to séances, thunderstorms and good lovin’ long gone. The song is a backwoods southern gothic ghost story that opens with a big tom fill then twists and turns around a folky strum and a fuzz guitar.
The album also has some country rock songs that highlight the melodic side of SCOTS, with “Baby I Like You,“ “I Ain’t Gonna Hang Around“ and “Given To Me“ featuring some of the best harmonies Rick and Mary have ever recorded. “Waiting On You” is a folk-garage-rocker with a sing-a-long chorus that segues into a surf raga breakdown before heading back to the big riff and out. The album has traditional Southern Culture flavor too. There’s the remake of “Swamp Fox – The Original,” the country funk of “Rice and Beans” and Mary’s R’n’B flavored “Midnight Caller.” Song for song, on The Electric Pinecones, Southern Culture On The Skids continues to blow minds and blur the lines between genres delivering a stellar album.