So who knew the boys had it in 'em? Well, anybody who's ever seen them in concert, that's who. With Just Add Ice, the Viceroys (sorry, "V-Roys" just sticks in the craw, lawsuits be damned) have defiantly put together a major label debut that not only captures the soul of a great band, but also blows the hair mousse off a typically soulless genre: modern country-rock.
A year ago, people were amazed the Viceroys were still together. Today, it wouldn't be an overstatement to say that they're one of the most vital bands to come out of Tennessee in years. If nothing else, Just Add Ice is a blazing vindication for the members' tenacity and creativity after years of music scene struggling. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the album's first cut is titled "Guess I Know I'm Right," but it serves as almost a declaration of intent— the Viceroys' sound is right on the damn money.
With crystal-clear production by Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy, the album ably records the Viceroys' strengths: simple arrangements, can't-miss hooks, and emotionally brazen songs that make you do a double take. The icing on the cake is just how well Scott Miller's and Mike Harrison's singing and songwriting complement each other. Both, it would seem, are not the types to write typical country love schmaltz— in fact, Just Add Ice has the most bittersweet break-up songs in recent memory, highlighted by Harrison's brutal "No Regrets" ("In the time it takes to crush this cigarette/ I will forget all about you").
Much has already been made of how many different musical styles the 'Roys integrate into their songs, ranging from rootsy country ("Pounding Heart") to English Invasion pop (gloriously evident on the cut "Around You") to Westerberg-style punk ("Cry"). But this isn't a calculated move by the band— it simply reflects the interests of four unique musicians. More importantly, all these influences are of a piece; each style is an honest form of musical expression, not a reaction to the latest marketing trend (fusion this ain't). And, of course, all of the Viceroys' songs are rooted by the crisp drumming of Jeff Bills and melodic bass work of Paxton Sellers.
In a just world, this album would zoom past all the Nashville poseurs currently cluttering up the country charts. It may well do just that, but most importantly for Viceroys fans, it's a permanent document of one of Knoxville's best bands.
(And don't forget: the V-Roys's album release concert at Mercury Theatre is FREE on September 14, 10:30 p.m. Prepare to sweat in confined spaces.)