Trophy Husbands – Walk with Evil

Trophy Husbands
Walk with Evil

The Trophy Husbands are an odd band. Dave Insley and Kevin Daly are two veterans of the Arizona music scene (yes, apparently there’s an Arizona music scene) who’ve come together for the second time under the Husbands brand to record simultaneously tough- and silly-sounding country-rock records. The latest is the alarmingly titled Walk with Evil (the follow up to the equally alarming Dark & Bloody Ground).
Kevin Daly can’t really sing, and barely tries, speak-singing most of his lyrics. The opening track, sung by Daly, is barely listenable for this reason. Fortunately, Insley sings lead four of the tracks (why didn’t they just let him sing all of them?), and he has your standard twangy country tenor nailed down pretty well. Daly, however, does manage a fair Willie Nelson impression on his composition “Burnin’ the Candle” (the rest of the refrain line is, you guessed it, “at both ends”). On the other hand, serious quality seems hardly to be the point, as the band attacks the well trodden ground of Southern Rock/Outlaw Country with tongue at least partly in cheek. This can be a lot of fun at times, as on the Ernest Tubb cover “Educated Mama” (though it’s never really a good sign when the one cover on an album is easily the best song), but this brand of fun does leave one with the feeling that this is a fairly disingenuous effort. Even the southern accents sound faked: the two are from Arizona, after all.
The playing is fairly standard-issue stuff. It has a country-band-for-hire feel to it. Daly plays lead guitar on all the tracks, and he does it pretty well despite wandering off key on a few solos. You’d expect a lot of steel guitar and Hammond organ, and that’s exactly what you get, plus some pretty hot baritone sax on the album’s closer, “Don’t Start.” They swing on the country numbers and rock on the rock numbers, as on the mystifyingly odd title track, on which the words, “don’t make my mistake; save yourself” are hoarsely whispered in the background as Daly sings about, well, walking with evil. Those words are repeated after the last song on the album, in a hamming-it-up horror movie kind of way, which for me is the final clue that these two are enjoying themselves way too much to be taking this too seriously.
It seems to me that the music is a sincere nod at the best that country and bar bands can offer, while they play a little more fast and loose with the lyrics. The perfect case in point might be “Sad Girl,” a pretty number drenched in slippery pedal steel and shuffling drums. Check out the overblown hard livin’ of the lyrics: “I’ve got $300 in my pocket / Just enough to drink myself to death… / … Drinkin’s what I do whenever we’re apart / The whiskey’ in my gut, but the burnin’s in my heart.” So … I somehow get the impression you’re a heavy drinker; is that right? Ah. I don’t know what could have tipped me off.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m picking on them. Actually, if you approach this record with the right sense of humor (not to mention blood alcohol level), you’ll really enjoy it. Even I, sober and firmly in “critic mode,” like parts of it a lot. All I’m trying to say is that it isn’t for everyone, not even for every Southern-rock fan.
Overall, though, it’s hard to tell whether Trophy Husbands are sending up Southern-rock clichés or just falling ass-backwards into them, but I have a feeling that after a six pack or two or PBR it really doesn’t matter anymore. I think, though, that maybe they’d be well served by proceeding more resolutely, a little more obviously, that is, in one direction or the other, since the result of walking the thin line between sincerity and parody is an album that leaves the listener a little confused about whether they should feel hip (in a Ween fan sort of way) or lame (in a Skynnyrd fan sort of way). I have to say, though, that I admire Daly and Insley for straddling that line between laughing and cringing so daringly.