JUSTIN PICKARD AND THE THUNDERBIRD WINOS - THE MEMPHIS RECORDINGS.
The Memphis Recordings by Justin Pickard and The Thunderbird Winos
Recorded 19th and 20th of December 2020 at Sun Studios – Memphis, TN
Released 16/07/2022 on Fun Guy Records (www.funguyrecords.com)
Mixed by Jim “Reverend Horton Heat” Heath at Fun-Guy Studios Dallas, Texas
Mastered by Adam Boose at Cauliflower Audio Cleveland, Ohio
Artwork by Chris Wilkinson
Reviewed 24/07/2022 by Brandon Anderson (www.rockabillyrarities.com)
Texas tornadoes Justin Pickard and The Thunderbird Winos hit us with their blazing new album The Memphis Recordings, a seven-track firestorm of classic rockabilly and rock and roll amped up to the next level under the guidance of industry icon Jim “Reverend Horton Heat” Heath. The Memphis Recordings features five original tracks as well as two covers of songs recorded at the same location it was cut, the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
Track 1 - “Exes” is a tale of posthumous exes told by the rusty vocals of Justin Pickard, scraping along like the gravel road he sings about as the song opens. Orion Pitts’ fiddle playing adds a touch of Hank Williams that we think is missing in a lot of modern rockabilly music but was definitely present when the foundations were being laid some seventy years ago. It is a welcomed addition and adds an original element to Justin Pickard and the Thunderbird Winos’ sound that most bands haven’t even considered utilizing. Pickard’s guitar playing is perfectly understated, fitting right in the mix and never dominating the soundscape.
Track 2 - “Ginger Snap” Justin Pickard tells a tale of his sweet red headed “Ginger Snap” and all of the sweet things she does. The song starts out with some great plinky guitar noodling to add to the solid rhythm being laid down by Mark Deffebach and Brondon Esco, which leads into some fantastic solo work from Pickard that quickly progresses into a frenzied fiddle breakdown to shake things up a bit. Justin not only does a great job of painting some steamy imagery through his vocals, but he also backs it up with his impressive lead playing, heating things up a notch and really showcasing Pickard’s multi-talented musical foundations.
Track 3 - “Right Here” features a classic shakin’ hillbilly rhythm that gives a nod to the studio it was recorded in and takes us on a rollicking rock and roll ride with Justin and the boys. “Right Here” reminds us of our obligation to stop and be in the moment with our special someone; not living in past regrets or dreaming of the future but seizing the moment and loving every minute of it. Jim Heath does a great job of nailing the warmth and balance of the old records we love which is a welcomed change from the loud and overproduced sounds that permeate modern airwaves. We can’t wait to get our hands on a vinyl copy to truly hear what this entire album sounds like firsthand through a proper stereo as opposed to earbuds!
Track 4 - “Mystery Train” (Herman Parker Jr., Sam Phillips) What can we say, this song is one of the all-time classics that has been covered by some of the legends of rockabilly and rock and roll. The old saying goes “often imitated, never duplicated” and Justin Pickard is definitely doing no imitation. Justin and the boys pull off a genuinely good cover of this classic pulled from Sun’s extensive back catalog of rock and roll standards and make it their own with the addition of Orion Pitts’ tasteful fiddle work and a nice bubba bubba bass breakdown, both taking the song into completely new territory and away from the typical Elvis impersonation that most covers of this song wind up falling into.
Track 5 - “Backward Devil” takes things down a notch and introduces a more Texas/red dirt focused sound that automatically makes us think of the bands being featured on Radio X, the underground radio station broadcasting across the border in Mexico and pushing the sounds coming out of Texas and Bakersfield, California in the early 1980s (Google it…) The second half of the sounds breaks out into what we can only (and lovingly) describe as a classic silent-era western film style chase scene soundtrack (try saying that ten times fast). The song builds as it ends leaving you in a little musical cliffhanger and enthusiastically waiting for more. What can we say? Justin and The Thunderbird Winos mail-in a superb performance of a truly original sounding song!
Track 6 - “Mean Little Mama” (Roy Orbison) We were super excited to see a Roy Orbison cover when we first received this album for review and Justin did not disappoint! Roy Orbison is one of the guys that flies under the radar with a lot of modern artists and it does our hearts good to see Justin do Roy a solid with a no nonsense fiddle enhanced version of one of Roy Orbison’s best and possibly most underrated songs. Mark Deffebach and Brondon Esco do such a good job playing off of each other and providing a faultless rhythm foundation that you almost forget they are there, your ears just kind of fall in-line and ride along with their fantastic sound as it chugs along. This song makes us want to hear more Roy Orbison covers!
Track 7 - “To Hell With the Wagon” is in our opinion the most impressive song from The Memphis Recordings. It showcases a completely different side of the band that harkens back to old murder ballads and folk music of the early 1900s and relies heavily on Orion Pitts’ lightning-fast fiddle playing, which we love. In our opinion Justin Pickard delivers his best vocal performance of the lot on “To Hell With the Wagon” and it has us wondering if this is the true sound of this band in its purest and most simple form. Only time will tell but we love what we are hearing and are waiting with our ears wide open to see what the future brings for Justin Pickard and The Thunderbird Winos.
The Memphis Recordings is another fantastic record in a string of undeniably cool releases from Fun Guy Records. Justin Pickard has taken us by surprise with an incredibly authentic and well thought out albums that paid true homage to the architects of the original 1950s sounds and doubles up on it by having recorded the album at none other than the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Justin adds himself to a very distinguished list of musicians with this special release and the fact that Jim Heath was involved at a hands-on level only adds to the cool factor! The Memphis Recordings is on heavy rotation around these parts, and we can’t wait to catch Justin Pickard and Co. at a live show to experience the real deal. Two thumbs up
Whether seeing Justin Pickard live when he goes into a sort of fugue state, rehashing guitar lines that could come straight off a 1950s country porch. or hearing his recorded work which tightrope walks between rockabilly to country, punk to rock’n’roll without falling, the effect is unforgettable.” -Jamie Vahala - Dallas Observer
Featuring Justin Pickard - vocals/lead guitar, Orion Pitts - fiddle/background vocals, Mark Deffebach - bass/background vocals, Brondon Esco - drums