Nitpickers – S/T

All stereotypes aside, Nitpickers write music for white-trash. In their own unique style of bluegrass, country, and bluesy rock, this band has crafted an album’s worth of dry wit and sardonic tales about hard times and broken relationships. Yes, country music has the cliché of being entirely about losing your wife and shooting your dog, and these guys know all about that cliché. They take advantage of it, in fact, in writing these clever and somehow uplifting songs.

While not the biggest bluegrass fan in the world, it’s nice to hear a band go at it, picking away at guitar and banjo and singing their hearts out. It’s a style of music that’s crisp and undoubtedly difficult to play, and so songs like “Borrowed Time” are refreshing. On the rest of this album, however, you don’t get a whole lot of typical bluegrass music. Those songs that do rely heavily on the country or western sound are most definitely not my favorites. “Big Heart,” for example, has a bit too much drawl and would be skipped right away if not for its silly lyrics (“It makes a big mess when a big heart breaks and it makes a big noise when a big heart aches”). The intro to “5th of July” is damn weird and experimental, but it breaks into an all-out shit-kickin’ country tune. But then the bluegrass-style instrumental “Jig it To Beaver” is just wonderful and intricate.

Quite a few of these songs take on a more playful, alt-country style feel. “Tunnel Road” is a great example, combining elements of Tom Waits and Johnny Cash and dark humor for probably my favorite song here. And “Heart So True” so perfectly combines the bluegrass and pop style, completely reminding me of what the Barenaked Ladies would sound like if they were raised in the south instead of the north. And while “Roy Boy” is most definitely a bluegrass style song, the unique chorus and damn fine lyrics make this one of the most pleasurable tracks here.

This band admits right away that they’re making “good music fer bad people.” Just check out the opening of the bluesy and unusual “Walk Alone,” for example: “Grew up while my dad was in prison / cuz he sold a bag of weed to a cop. / Mama always knew how to have a good time / but she never knew how to stop.” Nitpickers embrace their roots and turn a sly smile to the country music cliches while wholeheartedly endorsing the white-trash ideal, if there is such a thing.

I’d say that’s what makes Nitpicker’s album so appealing to me. Yes, some of these songs are too country and western, too drawling for my tastes. But they’re certainly talented enough pieces, and they’re quite likely followed by a wonderful combination of bluesy rock/pop and bluegrass styling that’s just full of wit. And those are the songs I’m listening for.