The Austin-based Mike and the Moonpies' "Steak Night at the Prairie Rose" is a satisfying mix of traditional country, southern rock and western swing with touches of rockabilly and pop. The set kicks off nicely with the bouncy "Road Crew," which blends western swing with rockabilly and spotlights lead guitarist Catlin Rutherford and keyboardist John Carbone. The closing "We're Gone" serves as a western swing bookend of sorts with a harder southern rock edge.
The band is at its best with more classic country arrangements that better serve front man Mike Harmier's vocals. The poignant title track is the tale of a young boy faced with a difficult choice following his parent's divorce ("Barely out of seventh grade/Mom and Dad went their separate ways/And me and my sister had to choose") that results in a special bond between father and son. The mournful "The Worst Thing," co-written by Harmier with band mates Rutherford, steel-guitarist Zachary Moulton, bassist Preston Rhone and producer Adam Odor, features Willie Nelson's longtime collaborator Mickey Raphael on harmonica.
Other highlights are the ballad "Wedding Band," which recalls George Strait or John Anderson from the '80s, and the southern rocker "Things Ain't Like They Used to Be" featuring a scorching fuzz tone guitar solo from Rutherford. The lone tune not written or co-written by Harmier is Jonathan Terrell's "The Last Time," driven by Carbone's keyboards and reminiscent of the country pop of the Amazing Rhythm Aces.
With Harmier's pleasant vocals, strong compositions and stellar musicianship throughout Mike and the Moonpies' fourth studio effort is a fun listen.