Karen Collins & the Backwoods Band
No Yodeling on the Radio
“Country music is as good as it’s ever been,” Ray Price once remarked in an interview backstage at the 2008 Country USA music festival in Oshkosh, WI. “The problem is that they don’t always play country.” If Price should ever see Karen Collins & the Backwoods Band in action, he surely would give thumbs up for the Washington DC-based honky tonkers whose original music is rooted in the late 1940s through the late 1960s. Song selection, sentiment and stylistically, it’s all here.
Western Virginia native Karen Collins sings in a mountain primitive country-ish voice that’s a cross between Kitty Wells and Dolly Parton. Guitar stylist Ira Gitlin never lacks for the right riff, string-bending action and tone to fit every occasion while bassist Geff King and drummer David Lopez provide a steady two-step backbeat. Song-wise, Collins’ title track is undoubtedly the disc’s most infectious tune while “Salvation Saloon” and the traffic jam fodder of “On the Belt Way” —with its funny lines “I’ve swatted flies, eaten cold fries on this highway”—trail close behind. The twang riveting “That There Boogie,” the disc’s lone instrumental, recalls 1960s classic “Buckaroo” from Buck Owens’ Buckaroos, though its hillbilly-ish title will likely make grammarians cringe.
With groups like Karen Collins & the Backwoods Band chipping away at the public perception of real country music, Price’s words will always ring true.
—Dan Willging (Denver, CO)