SXSW Preview: Crooks – Hippest Alt-Country in Town?

If any of you are friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that I have recently fallen back in love with the Old 97’s. Their raucous brand of alt-country is full of witty lyrics and high-energy, catchy music, and it’s been about the only thing my Spotify has known these last several days. Thus, I went about searching for an Old 97’s soundalike band from Austin that I could cover for OVRLD. I’m sure that band is out there, but instead I finally stumbled across Crooks.

And apparently, I’m one of the last to do so. It seems like every publication in town has written these guys up – KUT, Austin Town Hall, the Chronicle, the Statesman, AustinSound, Side One Track One – plus tons of out of towners, including Daytrotter and My Old Kentucky Blog. They have clearly broken the hype meter. And much of this attention was based around their 2010 four-song EP, Lonesome, Rowdy and Restless. It’s pretty great alt-country, which I guess just means that it’s country music that is too badass to play on the radio. Crooks’ stuff tends to be a bit mellower than what the Old 97’s often roll out, but it is still undeniably cool.

Crooks - 'River Road'

The immaculate “Bar Stool” is straight-forward country-rock in the vein of the Flying Burrito Brothers. It’s a classic drinking song (“I ain’t got much to lose / So pass me that bottle of booze”) with a trumpet solo in the middle of it. Elsewhere on the EP, they recall alt-country greats like the Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo, and the Handsome Family. The harmonies and accompanying mandolin on opener “River Road” are gorgeous, the dark atmosphere on “Downtown” is enhanced by a rolling tom-heavy drum part, and “18 Wheels” is like a perfect country road song.

It’s understandable that the world is psyched for their forthcoming full-length in late spring, which we will most definitely inform you about. Don’t miss them at SXSW, where their showcase is at The White Horse (500 Comal St) at midnight on Thursday of that week. And for more info on them, hit up their website.

– Carter