Johnny J and the Hipshots, “Below the Bible Belt” (Tall Tail)

On Johnny J’s previous effort, in the review this scribe posted, I recommended he immediately take a lengthy trip to the county farm, get periodic electric shock treatments and extensive psychiatric therapy. I still stand by that recommendation. J’s somewhat the local equivalent of Hasil Adkins. On his current CD, J broaches such subjects as mother-in-law romance, vermin, drug addiction, infidelity, Mini Coopers, store-bought fashion and the grisly contents of hot dogs. But hey, it’s all good.


“The Promised Land” gets the ball rolling and it’s a high-energy, guitar-driven tale of guns and romantic promise. “She Don’t Want Me Drinkin’ With Her Mama” is taken at a similar pace and, I’m sure just from the title, most listeners can guess where this one’s headed. “Saddie Next Door”—well you can see where that story begins and ends too. “I Let Out A Rat”—well, I’m not sure where that one’s going. Actually, the best tune here is the change-up “I Wandered Down The Road,” which is saved for last. The songs are “peculiar” in J’s own way and often are quite humorous and clever—but not all of them. The tempos and structure here get samey. This often works on the bandstand if you had a couple Molsons, but not always over the course of an entire CD playing in the Honda. As on the brilliant Nuclear Hayride—produced by Alex Chilton—J might well benefit if someone else in the studio made a few suggestions. So too would some well-chosen covers rather than marginal originals that dwell on rodents and tube steaks.