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Soundcheck: The Bottom of the Barrel - Sober

Don't let the title fool you. Sober is chock-full of drinkin' songs.

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THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL/PROVIDED
  • The Bottom of the Barrel/provided

The debut 9-track album from Oklahoma City quartet The Bottom of the Barrel is a rip-roarin’ time, and that’s no small feat for an acoustic record. Comprised of guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and upright bass, the sounds on Sober are noticeably light on percussion, with just the occasional snare, shaker, snap, or foot stomp to supplement the rhythm already set by the players’ strumming and picking. That’s all the band needs to party heartily, though, and if that isn’t indication enough that these boys are tightly in sync, they offer plenty of multi-part harmonies throughout the LP to prove it several times over.

More of a bluegrass act than anything else, The Bottom of the Barrel hits a lot of country tropes that have been watered down over time — fishing, women, hitting the road — but not in the same way. “The Highway Up” has an escapist motivation to its drive out of town. “Ms. Jedadine” extends its amorous inclinations to acknowledge real-world consequences. “Fishin’ for You” even has all the qualities for a pop-country hit. It has a catchy, gimmicky concept, and a full electric band could easily amp it into something more generic. The band keeps it grounded, acoustic, and sincere.

Then there’s the liquor, which mostly takes the form of whiskey and appears in at least half of the tracklist. The band cleverly loads the back end of the album with more party songs and drinking numbers than the front end, turning the album experience into a gradual loosen- ing. By closer “Blood and Booze,” background yelps and hollers are in full force.

There are some nice surprises on the album, such as the borderline artsy fiddle opening to “Blood Gold,” but what the band does best is deliver on expectations. Sober aims to be a downright hootenanny, and that’s what listeners get. Add some authentic studio work from local mainstay Breathing Rhythm Studio, and you have a bottle of in-the-moment energy distilled into a sweet 30 minutes, which is literally about how long it takes for alcohol to take effect. Now that’s a twist worth toasting.

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