Sly and the Family Stone once wrote a track called Family Affair and Texan (Corpus Christi to be exact) outfit Black TarPoon are certainly that. The band were formed in 2014 by Jesse James (acoustic guitar/lead vocals), Oatmeal Reed (bass/dirty vocals) and are accompanied by Jesse’s wife, also Oatmeal’s sister Tashia the Don (washboard/backing vocals). The lineup is complete with Jesse’s dad Billy Mo (lead guitar/backing vocals) and family friend Chi Chi Picante (drums).
In case you weren’t up on your drug lingo, black tar is a reference to heroin, while poon means a foolish person. The band explain that ‘The name is basically an anti-heroin reference. We’ve had loved ones pass away due to heroin overdose… Heroin can make the best of us fools’. The EP is a stopgap to the band’s sophomore album Probable Caws, which will be released at some point this year.
I have to admit to not being the biggest country music fan in the world, maybe living in leafy English suburbia means I find it hard to relate to the genre. However I was persuaded to give the EP a shot when I went over to the band’s Bandcamp page and heard their take on Rockwell’s 80’s paranoid pop classic Somebody’s Watching Me. I was imbued by a sense of fun and intrigue, and thus here I am reviewing their latest work.
Funnily enough for all the exuberance, joy and silliness of the aforementioned Rockwell cover, I was a little taken aback by the sombre and downbeat nature of opener Sarita. Anyone who has had their heart ripped out will no doubt be able to relate to the tale of emotional anguish and toil the protagonist has gone through. Despite its downbeat nature however, there is a punkish energy that one would associate with early Misfits, as well as the Meat Puppets’ II album. Simply put, this is as far removed from Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks as you can get. Thank the lord.
Its lyrical themes evoke the best that country has to offer, ala Hank Williams, while the music itself is upbeat and packed full of vibrant energy…
If Clutch recorded a country song Gloom would be it. There is a bluesier feel here and Neil Fallon’s distinctive vocal style has seemingly had an influence too. As with Fallon, I had a little trouble discerning the lyrical content of the track, but judging by the title and tone, one would have to surmise that it too tends towards the darker side, in addition to this, the promo notes state that the band sing of loss and addiction thus further backing up my theory.
He Sleeps With The Fishes conjures up images of the Mafia, who often use this term to intonate a rival has met an untimely end. While Black TarPoon are clearly not Mafioso figures, they nonetheless have encountered a lot of death in the past year or so as associates and friends have succumbed to the evils of Heroin. It’s the hardest hitting track on the EP by far, expressing the understandable anger and sadness at such wastes of life. Musically, to my ears, I hear punk-blues outfit Mule and vocalist PW Long, it’s also not that far removed from John Brannon’s noise-rock legends Laughing Hyenas. A feisty and noisy conclusion to the three track EP.
Despite my relative indifference to the country genre, I found this release to be thoroughly enjoyable and engaging. Its lyrical themes evoke the best that country has to offer, ala Hank Williams, while the music itself is upbeat and packed full of vibrant energy, despite the depressing subject matter. In summary, Black TarPoon are ones to watch.
Scribed by: Reza Mills