Album Review: TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION High in the Saddle
Texas Hippie Coalition is famous for their gritty, foot stomping tunes about drinking and partying—their self-described "Red Dirt Metal." The rockers from Denison, Texas are back again and not slowing down for anything. High in the Saddle is the band’s sixth studio album and their first in three years, following up 2016’s Dark Side of Black. While Dark Side of Black was very much about heavy instrumentation, High in the Saddle introduces more melody and has a lighter vibe overall.
Producer Bob Marlette took the helm once again, having worked on Texas Hippie Coalition’s 2014 album, Ride On. Having worked with everyone from Rob Zombie to Lynyrd Skynyrd, it’s no surprise that High in the Saddle is well crafted. It is also cleverly arranged as if each song is a distinct puzzle piece that fits into the other. Big guitars and groovy rhythms explode with southern charm and party rock vibes. Needless to say, there is no shortage of fun times here. As vocalist Big Dad Rich says, “I’m just out of have fun, man.” Indeed, that’s the stuff that Red Dirt Metal is made of.
The album kicks off with the swaggering gem “Moonshine.” It’s devilishly catchy hooks and rolling cadence will get lister’s heads nodding right away. It goes down as nicely as a cool swig of beer. Big Dad Rich’s deep, husky voice booms with authority and just a hint of sweetness. Second thought, a shot of honey bourbon seems more fitting. “Bring It Baby” switches gears a little, sliding into more of a hard rock tune. Rich’s voice stands out clearly over crunchy guitar riffs as they mingle over thrashing symbols. There is also some excellent solo work here, which adds a bit of grittiness overall.
High in the Saddle would be remiss without a nod to two major influences. Both Johnny Cash and Stevie Nicks played a big part in developing the band’s sound, and to Rich personally. The song titled “Stevie Nicks” is uber-catchy and very much something to dance to. It describes a beautiful, spell-binding woman who wants to dance and have fun. Not unlike the original gypsy queen. As the lyrics state, “look at you girl, dancing like a gypsy.”
The ode to “The Man In Black” is much less up front. However, you can still hear that Cash-esque presence in “Ride or Die”. Here, the record begins to spread its wings, bringing in those melodic elements. It's a mixed drink of charming acoustic guitars and some unexpected piano work. It could even be faintly reminiscent of Black Label Society’s more ballad-like songs.
As for the feel-good party antics, that can easily be attributed to bands like Motley Crue. “BullsEye” boast every bit of that classic 80’s rock ballad it can. There are some great guitar riffs here. It resonates with the same soulfulness as Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive”.
All put together, High in the Saddle is a nice piece of musical craftsmanship. While most of the subject matter is the same, musically there is something for everyone. The record will seem to end just as quickly as it began. If there is any disenchantment then Red Dirt Metal is probably not the right genre for that listener. If you can’t take the party, stay away from the south!