Hellbilly. It is a word that is becoming more and more common in the world of underground country as a certain “son of a son” with the last name of Williams gains even greater popularity. Yet, it is a word that is often used inaccurately. Some artists are simply too traditional and others’ sounds go down way too smooth to be considered “hellbilly,” but still get tagged with the label regardless. However, this is not a problem for the Houston, Texas band The U-Joints. With a heavy rockabilly sound that delivers a hard honky-tonk-punk-rock punch to the jaws of listeners, the band establishes their hellbilly status on their debut EP, Straight Out of the Trunk: an outstanding six song set that is sure to get juke-joint hearts beating strong.
Dominated by Warren Rhone’s edgy Texas vocals and Ray Marchese’s powerful guitar, The U-Joints’ sound shows a wide range of musical influences. One can hear heavy doses of rockabilly in one song, punk in another, and in others… both. And in some cases, the songs are just straight-up rock and roll. Yet, the songs never sound cluttered. Somehow, all of these sounds seem to blend together. This makes Straight Out of the Trunk an interesting and very satisfying musical experience.
Each of the six songs on Straight Out of the Trunk is a sonic treat, especially for the hellraisers that have lived the tales that the songs tell. Numbers like “Hellbilly Holiday Weekend” and “U-Joint Boogie” have a rockabilly foundation, but with a hard edge that reminds one more of The Reverend Horton Heat than Carl Perkins. A dark, eerie, western atmosphere is given to “Train Song”: a tale of a man who escapes his life of misery through the sound of the trains passing by. “There’s the Door” is a particularly interesting tune, as while one person could argue that it sounds like a Waylon Jennings song, another could just as legitimately dub it to be a Social Distortion rocker. Either way, it is an EP standout, as is “I Can’t Live Alone”: a song that leaves listeners wondering why it is not being celebrated on rock radio. Finally, “Walkin My Tab,” Trunk’s closer, has a Johnny Cash feel… if the Man in Black were on a heavy dose of speed, that is. A successful combination of country heartbreak and a heavy rebellious rock nature, Straight Out of the Trunk is a major achievement in musical diversity.
While the label “hellbilly” will likely continue to be given to several upcoming bands and artists in the future, The U-Joints actually deserve this honorary distinction. The only downside to the EP is that it leaves listeners wanting more. However, if Straight Out of the Trunk is any indication of what is to come from The U-Joints, their full-length debut will be well worth the wait!