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Banditos (Bloodshot, 2015)


Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

It takes a certain raw instinct to make music that's as unhinged and unruly as that purveyed by Banditos. Originally from Alabama and now ensconced in Nashville, this scruffy looking bunch of 20-somethings makes a sound that's wholly raw, raucous and unrefined, a perfect anecdote to the polite, plaintive melodies that defines much of what's typecast as Americana these days.

That said, Banditos take their cue from any number precedents - the Southern swagger of Lynyrd Skynrd, the communal cohesion of Big Brother and the Holding Company, the menacing approach of Jim Morrison and the Doors, the initial ruckus instilled with rockabilly and fellow travellers like Elvis, Jerry Lee and Carl Perkins. Granted, it's a mighty extensive list of influences to digest, but Banditos seem to pull it off with aplomb and still make it sound like they're beholden to none.

Lead singer Mary Beth Richardson provides a case in point. Here she manages to wail like a banshee, a modern incarnation of Janis Joplin hammering out the blues at full throttle. On songs like "Old Ways" and "No Good," her unabashed emotion mines every bit of passion she can muster. Mostly though, the band reeks of Southern swagger, whether it's the banjo pluck and shuffle that guides "Golden Grease," the unhinged revelry of "The Breeze" or the sway and serenade of "Blue Mosey #2." They rock steadily in-between, maintaining an uptempo pacing that rarely falters throughout.

Early in, Banditos seem determined to waste no time in establishing an identity, and, given their unrepentant attitude, it's clear already they've managed to succeed. Here's hoping Banditos continue to plunder their precedents and still abscond with a sound that's wholly their own.

CDs by Banditos

Visionland, 2017 Banditos, 2015

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