First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2006, Volume 13, #11
Written by John Metzger
Twenty-five years after rock ’n‘ roll broke into the mainstream, the industry fell into a rut. Recently, a similar fate has befallen hip-hop, though the 10-man, Kentucky-based outfit Villebillies seems determined to break the genre out of its ennui. Throughout its self-titled debut, the ensemble bends its hip-hop beats and rhyming schemes around a series of unusual and unexpected arrangements that swerve among southern rock, bluegrass, blues, and country styles. Although Villebillies’ eponymous effort begins with the standard, one-two punch of Whiskey and Burnin’ Down the House, the group makes a dramatic alteration to its course on the subsequent Grass Roots. By switching to an acoustic backing track, the collective transforms the song’s old-school R&B framework ŕ la Arrested Development into a bucolic, back porch environment. Once the door has opened, everything becomes fair game for Villebillies to incorporate into its work. A banjo, for example, is used to underscore Ol’ Faithful, and a trumpet punctuates the Red Hot Chili Peppers-inspired I Got Moves. Elsewhere, a playful tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd is tacked onto the tail end of the alt-rock-oriented Rolling Stone. Without a doubt, the juxtapositions that Villebillies has concocted are strange. Nevertheless, most of them work remarkably well. It’s only when the band adheres too closely to a single format that its music begins falter. Quite simply, the weirder its material becomes, the more successful it is. In the end, Villebillies appears to be on the right side of the line that separates gimmicky posturing from the development of a new niche. ˝
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box