"The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown" (2009) by Wagons

I first discovered Wagons at the East Coast Bluesfest 2010, when I chanced upon their show because there were very few people there and I was bored. So, when their set started on one of the smaller stages, I walked unobstructed straight to the front of the standing area and watched. Behind me, the crowd started to get bigger and bigger, until, by the end of Wagons’ hour-long set, the tent was crowded.

Wagons are a good example of a band that no one has heard of but everyone should see live. They absolutely blew my mind. The lead singer, Henry, is incredibly charismatic and puts his full energy into every show, jumping around, making hilarious jokes, breaking guitar strings, screaming, and frequently calling upon the audience to sing.

Their album, however, is a lot more country-orientated then their live set is. While they’re, for the better part, the same songs, the band’s sound in general is just a lot more country/western than they are live. But that’s not to say they can’t rock out, either. A few of the songs are heavy, slow, and hard-rocking, and, even though I’m not a country fan, the rest of the songs are just-enough-but-not-too-much-country for me to be able to enjoy them. For me, the song “The Gambler” is the best example of this – an epic tale of a gambler who loses everything but is still addicted to betting, this track is everything country and still brilliant.

Henry’s vocals are deep, wavering, and very fitting to the music, reminiscent of Johnny Cash. The rest of the band works well to back Henry, having fun in the process. That’s what The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown is – while it tells the same epic tales as country music, many of the songs are done with tongue firmly in cheek, such as “Keep Your Eyes Off My Sister” – Wagons are having a joke while, at the same time, being deadly serious. And the combination of this joking while being honest really works for them.

All in all, Wagons’ debut release is recommended if you’re into a little bit of Southern Comfort with your rock and roll. Whether you do or not, however, if you ever have the chance to see them live, you simply have to.

Choice tracks: Goodtown; Love Me Like I Love You; The Gambler; Never Been To Spain
If you like: Johnny Cash; Willie Nelson; The Basics; Elvis Presley’s later years; Mark Seymour


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