This past March saw the release of Bourbon Belt, the latest effort by Halifax’s own Billie Dre & The Poor Boys, an EP that plays like an intriguing sampler and showcase of the band’s clearly varied sound. The short collection of songs, three tracks in all (not to be confused with the four track EP available on their bandcamp titled Surf Now, Apocalypse Later), comes on the heels of the Poor Boys’ 2011 debut EP I’ve Spoken With the Wolf in the Mountain. On this latest recording the three-piece, consisting of singer/guitarist William Dray, bassist Corey Henderson, and drummer Dylan Ryan, have presented a concise set which, despite its run-time, offers plenty to digest in its full and well-rounded execution.
Just as Bourbon Belt‘s three songs manage to expand effortlessly on the demeanor of the band’s previous offering, the songs’ individual sonic territory diverges constantly amongst each other. Each of the tracks has its own style and voice without straying far from the band’s signature sound; making for an accordingly diverse experience.
The opener, “Dogs of Doom,” begins with a running Johnny Cash-like guitar and bass line before giving way to a typically alt-rock chorus chant, “Hands to the sky! Silence if you value life!” Soon after, the deceptively laid-back bridge enters, complete with a hushed baritone and cappella section – a curious, yet whimsical little change of pace. Finally the song concludes with a brief return to the primary guitar/vocal melody before another stutter-shift into pure rock domain as the tempo steadily increases, the percussion goes wild and the guitar shreds furiously. The song’s lyrics have a clear story-like quality (much in the manner of Decemberists’ songs) and the structure itself is likely best described as a narrative. With a general plot, specific story arcs, a building climax and conclusion, it acts like a film. It’s ever-shuffling vibe is fitting at times, jarring at others, but always entertaining – a dimmer “Bohemian Rhapsody” of sorts (and in this instance ‘dimmer’ is no fault; that degree of theatricality is a thing of legends).
Next up, track “Stark,” follows in striking contrast to the brilliant ramble of the opener. However more foreboding and straight forward, it is nevertheless just as engaging as its forerunner. The toned-down guitar makes way for the driving bass and a haunting vocal attitude. This one is a come down, a breath of fresh air sandwiched in the middle of this EP and leading wonderfully into final track and personal favourite, “Wino Rhino.”
The closing track seems the perfect encapsulation of the band’s oeuvre. It floats somewhere between the rockabilly randomosity of “Dogs of Doom” and the compelling alt-rock drive of “Stark.” Here, all parts come together perfectly to produce a brilliantly catchy tune, something to swim in your head for hours on end as you rattle through the working day. The vocal melody is endlessly endearing as Dray speed croons through the verse’s cusp on into the sing-along chorus, “I need you, I need you, Lola.” After one final instrumental breakdown, the EP concludes with a sentiment for the ages, “Broke my heart, stole my soul and left me what I love most, and that’s whiskey, records, and rock and roll.” It feels almost like a statement of intent, these guys will continue on rocking like they should. So look forward to what comes next. A proper full-length, perhaps? In the meantime, support this masterful band and purchase Bourbon Belt by whatever means possible.