Funky Nashville
"Hitch A Ride"

(215 Records 2006)Funky Nashville - Hitch A Ride

Somewhere in my mind there exists a hypothetical movie assembled from bits and pieces of every Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Sergio Leone flick I've seen on cable television. In it, Benicio Del Toro plays a hit man who's driving through a rattlesnake-infested desert, on the run from an insane Texas Ranger played by Christopher Walken. The movie starts out really cool, with shots of sun-bleached wasteland, a tense gunfight in a run-down motel, and Benicio spouting some bad-ass one-liners. Eventually, the whole thing goes a bit overboard, particularly in the final scene where, having been pumped full of lead by a SWAT team, Benicio chugs an entire bottle of tequila and it comes trickling out the bullet holes in his gut.

Funky Nashville's "Hitch A Ride" would make the perfect soundtrack for that movie. It starts with a menacing gunslinger vibe, twanged-out guitars chiming like church bells as mariachi trumpets set the stage for a shootout. On both the ballads and the rockers, Funky Nashville play everything for maximum cinematic effect, adorning the arrangements with choirs of background vocals, horns, strings, percussion, and tons of reverb. Now and again a hip-hop loop or static-y industrial sound effect reminds you that this is the 21st century, but otherwise the songs exist in a timeless netherworld of phantom truckers, lost highways, and ruthless banditos -- a version of the American West that only existed in paperback novels and Hollywood movies.

When not strumming flamenco riffs on his acoustic, vocalist/guitarist Sverre Stein Nielsen sings about "gambling my life away" and "sweet love...under the Mexican stars" in a voice somewhere between Dwight Yoakam's drawl and Morrissey's melancholy croon. Yes, it's all a bunch of Spaghetti Western clichés, but Funky Nashville are so dead-on in their delivery that you can't help but get swept along.

Like any good direct-to-DVD B-movie, "Hitch A Ride" comes packaged with a few deleted scenes that were better left deleted. Of the three bonus tracks tacked onto the end of the album, only "Searching for Love" works, and probably because it's in the same Spaghetti Western style as the album tracks. As for the others...Nielsen's attempt at a Big & Rich-style honky-tonk rap on "Everything We Do" falls flat, while the gumbo-flavored disco-funk of "The Witch Queen of New Orleans" just proves that only Dr. John can sing songs about voodoo ladies without sounding ridiculous.

Bonus tracks aside, for a bunch of guys from Denmark, Funky Nashville do an impressive job of channeling the spirit of the American West -- or at least of the American West as it's depicted in pop culture. While it's probably not going to fit in with either mainstream country radio or the alt-country scene, "Hitch A Ride" is probably one of the ten best country records I've heard this year. Now, if only Benicio Del Toro could make a movie to go along with it...


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