Creating authentic country honky tonk music, especially when you are a twenty-something singer from Sheboygan, Michigan, seems about as feasible as being the first transsexual black quadriplegic to be President of the United States. On Tumblers and Grit Chris Richards defies long odds to create honky tonk music that sounds right at home with the masters such as George Jones or Lefty Frizzell.
Tumblers and Grit represents Richardís second CD of all-original material. His first, Jam the Breeze, garnered praise from such disparate sources as No Depression and BBC Radio. His second release is far more polished, but no less genuine. Among the fine musicians roped together for the disc by producer R.S. Field was legendary pedal steel player Lloyd Green. His credits include playing on one hundred and seventeen #1 country hits. Other musicians in the core band on Tumblers and Grit include Kenny Vaughn on guitars, Steve Conn on keyboards, Chris Carmichael on strings and mandolin, Jared Reynolds on bass, and Shawn McWilliams on drums and percussion.
Richardís voice has a relaxed yet heartfelt delivery that seems perfectly attuned to his music. One of the moodier songs on the CD, "Crazy Too," begins with an atmospheric pedal steel lick, followed by a subdued backing arrangement that allows the songís power to uncoil slowly. Once again Richards voice leads the arrangement, but because of his dulcet tonality, itís not in your face. His most upbeat tune, titled ďHonkytonk Graveyard,Ē features a sprightly two-step beat, coupled with a hot double pedal steel and fiddle solo. Happy is not an adjective critics will use when describing Richardís music. Sound here is more than adequate, not state-of-the-art, but no serious warts either.
If youíre the sort of person who bemoans the lack of "real country music" Tumblers and Grit will be a refreshing musical tonic, as bracing as that first sip of morning whisky. This is the good stuff.