Iconic New York City rock club CBGB opened its doors in 1973 in the East Village. The name was an acronym that stood for country, bluegrass and blues. Punk and new-wave bands quickly invaded, and it became a staple for hardcore punk bands. Over the years, bluegrass and country have been similarly visited by various shades of punk. On the new self-titled debut album from Burlington's Red Clover & The Hermit Thrush, the band furthers this notion with a low-fi collection of twangy, punky drinking anthems.
The album is as punch drunk as you'd expect. Take "Gin Eyes," for example, in which lead singer and bassist Chris Gibbo admits he won't stop boozing "until I go blind." Or "I've Been Drinking," on which he confesses, "I've been drinking ever since you came around." Regardless of whether your boots are of the cowboy or Doc Martens variety, heartache and liquor always go hand in hand. Yet even amid their liquored-up lamentations, there's an element of saucy — or sauced — punk 'tude throughout.
"Baby Please Don't Go" opens the album with a bumpy song about being left alone in the winter. Here Gibbo pleads, "Don't break my heart or my soul / I need you more than ever before." Catchy and anthemic, it's a nod to the sing-along drinking music made famous by bands such as the Pogues and the Dead Milkmen.
It's notable that for more than 10 years, Gibbo, Glenn Woytowich (guitar) and Greg Dusablon (drums) have been playing together in the local punk-rock band Y69, who have toured locally and regionally to modest acclaim. Especially live, that band is entertaining musically and for its slapstick humor — two qualities that serve them well as Red Clover. In particular, Gibbo plays the upright bass with unique aggression and curiosity. His vocals resonate with authenticity.
"If Groucho Were My Doctor I'd Shoot Him" is an album highlight, revealing Gibbo's vocal strengths as a country-folk singer. Dusablon powers through with the snare and brushes, locking in with Woytowich. Guitarist, banjo player and vocalist Chris True rounds out the band and is a great addition. His banjo playing, in particular, is steady throughout and helps the group achieve its ragged glory. "Lock the Door" is another standout track in which the band rolls around in the same haystack as some of the cow-punk greats.
Red Clover & The Hermit Thrush have not forged new territory on their debut. But it's apparent that the band is having fun and stitching together some catchy songs in the process.
Red Clover & The Hermit Thrush's self-titled debut is available at redcloverandthehermitthrush.bandcamp.com. Catch them live on Friday, August 15, at Manhattan Pizza in Burlington, and Saturday, August 16, at Bagitos Bagel and Burrito Café in Montpelier.