Alleged country band makes a formalist pop masterpiece

Reckless Kelly's Wicked Twisted Road is as formally perfect, felt, and thought through as some touchstone of classic pop like Big Star's Radio City. And as a concept album about all the trouble you can get into on the road, it's narrated by a singer tough and capable enough to turn the tables on a blown bank robbery by taking himself "a hostage in a Delta skirt," hip enough to refer to the lucky customer service representative simply as "Delta" later on in the song, and pop savvy enough to end the tune with a chorus of harmonized "true, true love." All in six minutes of "Sixgun," which also proves Willy Braun's got a big heart—it's really about his love for an equally tough woman named Sadie. Who would've figured?

Who needs powerpop?
photo: Matthew Fuller/Sugar Hill Records
Who needs powerpop?

Forget powerpop; Reckless Kelly one-up that whole thing in "These Tears," which is as subtly oblique as anything by Marshall Crenshaw except the drumming is better and they use fiddles. "Motel Cowboy Show," at 5:37, wastes not a second, and shifts from flat-out rock to slow drag and back quicker than you can roll one for the road. Country only by association—and the post-macho white-blues parody "Wretched Again" shakes out as not funny at all.

 
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