In retrospect, the news that The Lost Trailers had recorded their own version of “Chicken Fried” should have been a warning. It turns out that the group’s fifth studio album is chock-full of banal odes to small-town life that would have fit just perfectly alongside that Zac Brown Band number – or maybe made it look better. Truly, Holler Back is the rare sort of musical work that manages to say almost nothing unique or interesting about any one of its well-worn subjects. It’s a collection of songs which seem to serve no individual purposes except to check another country music cliche off the list, whether it’s the pleasures of youthful rebellion (“Blacktop Road,” “Hey Baby”), the nostalgic value of lost innocence and love gone by (“Summer of Love”), or, of course, the merits of simple, rural living (“Country Folks (Livin’ Loud),” “Things You Don’t Grow Out Of”, the title track).
But the themes are not what kills this album. Any theme can be rendered fresh given a fresh angle; the problem here is that there are no angles. Country music will probably never tire of songs about lovers leavin’, but what need does anyone have for a song in which the man’s only objection to his addressee’s departure is “How ‘Bout You Don’t”? You can certainly appreciate the idea behind considering those “Things You Don’t Grow Out Of,” but what’s the point of writing a song simply to state that those things do, in fact, exist? When a song’s titular line is all you really have to say about the subject, why write it? And if you must write it, why force it? Why not just be forthright with the fact that you have nothing substantial to express?
Consider the lead single and title track, “Holler Back.” It’s a shamelessly contrived piece that knowingly caricatures every person it features: we have the Ebonics-loving “city-folk” friend, the “country folks” who “got it good” (’nuff said), the cowgirls who exist only to “[shake] their sassafras.” There is talk of wild seeds being sewn and much “hey!” and “ho!” shouting-along. It’s the kind of mindless single that’s designed to serve as the soundtrack to your rowdy, drunken festivities – and in that sense, it is very well-written. The details are charming and creative in their utter inanity, the production is tight, the chorus is strong. It’s dumb, but that’s the idea. And for what it is, it works.
The same approach also scores on closing track “Gravy,” a port from the previous album (there are three others, by the way) which recounts a young man’s decision to sell marijuana in order to “save the family farm.” Once again, the character’s situation and personal psychology are reduced to fun Cliffs Notes like, “my mama cried, my grandma cried; my grandpa would have cried, but he done died,” but after the eight tracks of indiscriminate, mid-tempo filler following “Holler Back,” it’s just nice to hear anything at all that sounds like a band inching toward a personality.
But of course, those eight mid-tempo tracks are there – and each with a moderately rocking production (they all bleed together), a singalong chorus (ditto), and any number of lyrics championing or otherwise making extensive (but never in-depth) mention of such hallowed practices as slamming the door, hitting the highway, wanting to be a changed man, beholding the wide open sky, finding out where the road goes, being a wild horse that’s ready to run, chasing the wind, taking a ride on Saturday night (or, alternatively, tearing down a gravel road on Saturday night), playing music loudly in pick-up trucks, loving the cooking at Mama’s house, singing the Star-Spangled Banner proudly, and learning lessons from your Grandpa (though presumably not the same one who taught you about growing weed in “Gravy”). Listeners who are relatively unfamiliar with country radio and have thus not heard such practices espoused in a multitude of recent hits may very well enjoy these eight songs, but the stereotyping will be hard to ignore for most followers of the genre’s mainstream output.
Ultimately, The Lost Trailers’ considerable promise as a vocal group gets all but completely lost within this sea of forgettable, recycled compositions. The success of “Holler Back” may net these boys a few album sales, but it’s doubtful that many fans will be won by the remainder of the material here. If there is any lesson to be learned from Holler Back, it’s that no amount of talent or slick production can overcome a fundamentally flawed sense of song.
A very well written review! Wow! assuming that your objective was to convince people to avoid this album, you were successful. I hadn’t checked it out yet, but I’m certainly convinced not to waste my time or money on it at this point.
There’s a reason why “lost” is the most prominent word on the album cover.
Thanks, Leeann. Honestly, I just tried to be as nice as I possibly could. I hate being extensively negative, and it was very hard to write an entire review about this album; I just wanted to stop after the first paragraph.
Just so everyone knows: Dan was kind of asked to write a review for this album, because it was a somewhat high profile release. So, as he said, he didn’t set out to write a negative review just to be negative.
Hey, it’s more generous than the 9513 review was. So they’ve got that going for them.
Come to think of it, Chris, you’re right.:)
I’ve run out of ways to express my negative thoughts about this album. Well done, honest review, Dan.
I agree with Leeann…that was a well written review!!
I personally never caught on to the whole “Holler Back” thing…I still change the radio station or tv station whenever this song or video comes on. I never really planned on buying the album, but after this, I definitely won’t be gettin it!
Great review Dan!
I’d at least like to thank The Lost Trailers for giving us two of the most entertaining recent album reviews (here and at The 9513). Nice work, Dan. This is a good bad review if ever there was one.
I hate to break it to you, but if you’re going to write great reviews of bad albums this well, we’re going to be pushing them all off on you!
Hilarious! So this group is every bit as lame as I guessed them to be? Evidently.
When I first heard the title “Holler Back”, I first thought of Gwen Stefani’s “Holla Back Girl”. That alone was my own personal sign cuz I don’t think that’s where they want my attention to go, ie. away from the country genre.
And please, the whole “selling pot to save the family farm” concept…. seriously? Gads, that’s just embarassing. LOL!
If I want to be entertained, I’ll just save my money and re-read this review. :-)
I received a copy of this album unsolicited (I request promo copies of about 90% of what I end up reviewing), and I get enough hate-mail as is that I just didn’t feel compelled to review it. But rest assured that I agree with nearly every word of this. Holler Back takes pandering to an audience to a whole new level.
With the exception of the instantly forgotten “Hillbillies” by Hot Apple Pie, I will say that I’m surprised that it’s taken a full 5 years to get such a bald-faced attempt at replicating “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” both in terms of content and execution, as the “Holler Back” single. I’m much less surprised that it badly misses most every mark.
You were certainly more generous with your stars than I would have been to these guys, Dan.
Oh, and if even one song on this outing had half the literary value of this review …
“I hate to break it to you, but if you’re going to write great reviews of bad albums this well, we’re going to be pushing them all off on you!”
Wow, Kevin. Most depressing compliment ever.
Just kidding! But really. Please. No.
Thanks so much for the kind words, everybody. It’s very gratifying to know that my long, caffeinated night of listening through this thing three times was not completely in vain. :)
Jonathan, I think you make a great point about the [attempted] similarities between “Holler Back” and the Big & Rich number. Come to think of it, I wonder just how many recent acts have been trying to cop Big & Rich’s style since they came out; I’d certainly credit the Muzik Mafia for inspiring the outpouring of “redneck pride” numbers over the last five or so years.
I guess I should hand in whatever music ‘credibility’ I have left due to me liking this album, despite its many flaws. I guess their history with me (Liking their very first national release) lead me to allowing more leeway?
I think that’s fair, Matt. :)
What’s fair? Me giving back my “cred” card or being allowed to skate for liking their older stuff (didn’t hear the 1st RCA record FWIW).
The second one. We’re all guilty of that with someone, I think.
Well, I will freely admit to liking a lot of music many people deem ‘crappy.’ :)
It’s okay, Matt, we still like you. Everyone needs a champion.:)
No. Seriously. I like plenty of artists that others would shoot down. It’s what proves that we’re free thinkers.
one and a half stars for this album is way too low a rating.
ryder lee’s (what a great name for any lead singer) vocals alone are worth one and a half stars. “holler back”, even though i’m not terribly hot on that song is a chart-hit and there’s at least another one on this record. that’s easily worth another half-star. even though, i quite agree that the guys are by and large sticking to often-heard-before, middle of the road material, the album as a whole sounds good in a rather distinctive way and comes across as a nicely balanced catalogue – another star.
arguably, three stars might be a touch too generous, but one and a half simply doesn’t add up – that poor, it ain’t.
Obviously, you don’t care for country music. So It is not fair to ask you to write a review of a music genere you do not care for. This group has been around a while and will continue to be. The songs on this album make you stop and think yea some are feel good but other tell a story, and that what country music is a story being told. Not just about the party taking place. I think that your review was highly unfair and leads people to believe this album sucks with is the farest thing from the truth.Please reconsider writing a country review I think people need to read a review written by someone who at least likes country music if not this group.
I love country music. I just don’t think this album is good country music – and honestly, the Trailers’ musical influences are much more rock than traditional country anyway, if you ask me.
I respect that we have different opinions on the album, though. It happens.