It’s highly irregular that a band would release a new album to coincide with their last ever gig.
Even more so that A Different Country proved to be The Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Company’s piece de resistance, their crowning glory...their proverbial Last Supper.
But then there was nothing ever regular about a band who looked like they’d just rolled in on a dusty track straight from North Carolina (via Bentham), preaching outrageous texts from The Bible, cussing, whooping hell yeah, and playing their instruments and “vocalising” like they’d just sold their souls to the devil.
Rewind back to March 2013 when I first interviewed the band’s frontman Jimbob following a gig at the famous John O’ Gaunt pub in Lancaster, England.
The mood at the show could best be described as electric.
There was an energy in that room that filled everybody right up.
It was like sparks flew out from the band, tangling up the audience in a frenzied swinging motion that had people jumping and jiving and, well, offering themselves up to the sound.
It was certainly an experience I would never forget, and little did I know that many similar ones would follow.
I immediately wanted to know more about this mysterious bunch of talented musicians with overstated deep south Ameyrican ayccents, and soon got the low-down resulting in a piece I wrote called The Gospel According to A Lumberjack Cowboy.
As far as everyone was concerned, or cared, Cousin Cleatus, from North Carolina, Mr Pip, from Mobile, Alabama, Big Tim from Beaver Creak, Mary Lou, from Houston, Texas, and Miss Diane, from North Carolina, were very much the real deal.
Believe what you will...but that’s Jimbob’s story and I’m sticking to it.
I soon became a convert, and picked up the albums Stronger Than Jesus and Promised Land.
Playing them to all and sunder, revelling in their irreverance, the wicked humour, the vivid scenery, the rolling basslines, the storylines, the crunching blues, the characters, and the wit and wordsmithery of Jimbob.
Songs with names like Cherry Pie, Dying, Suck The Soul, Three Legged Cow, Pony, Don’t Take The P*ss, John Doe, Johnson’s Corner and I F**kin’ Love You.
Songs you could sing to at the top of your lungs, songs to share with your closest friends as well as complete strangers.
T-Shirts were made, bumper stickers appeared on the least likely of vehicles, pubs were packed out with hungry converts, and festival appearances called.
It was high times, good times, genuine times - when it feels like that you know you’re on to something.
But less than three years later, as loyal fans hung on to every last note and felt proud to be part of something special, Jimbob announced the release of the final album and the band’s break-up with their final show on September 11 2015.
I’m surmising that A Different Country has two meanings - the music is very much a different kind of “country”, and Jimbob was leaving for a different country (Poland to be exact).
Seems to make sense?
Several of the songs had been in the band’s revolving and fluid sets for a couple of years, giving it a nostalgic and comforting feel - the irresistable grind of Hip Bone being a notable dance floor favourite.
Commencing with the fragile guitar plucks of Kite, and ending with the anthemic Never Change, A Different Country swoops through emotional tides, peaks and troughs, strikes and gutters, and lyrics that touch nerves here, there and everywhere.
The tender and heartwarming Let It Grow with its gorgeous backing vocals follows the bouncy and breezy Hurricane, a beautifully written tribute to being in love, before F**king Get On With It teaches some simple life lessons we all seem to forget sometimes.
The Pink Floydesque Money allows the album to breathe, its hypnotic beat and mantra-like chorus (“Money money money, it’s bad energy”) perfect for a long stretch of road, and a nice little tribute to American singer-songwriter Hank Williams’ in there too.
There’s No-One There is an accomplished piece of writing covering the dubiousness of astrology, faith, life after death, karma, destiny, fear of the unknown...and coming to terms with the fact that, in all likelihood, there is “no-one there”.
Kiss is a full frontal groove, while Jowita clears up some of the content of the other songs, a rollicking great rock n’ roll track with a slack bass and driving rhythm.
‘What’s her name?’ indeed.
Penultimate track Don’t Let Go is a reprise of Hurricane, giving the album a circular, complete feeling as it slows things down again.
There’s more than a whiff of sarcasm and irony sending off some of the tracks, especially on Hit Me which reverts back to the slapstick comedy many fans of the band grew to love so well.
But it’s a much more “honest” album than the previous two, not to detract whatsoever from those.
There’s definitely a thread running through A Different Country, but like many of the great ones, it’s open to interpretation.
Production is also high value thanks to Alan Gregson of West Orange Studios in Preston, who adds depth and breadth to the sound with a range of extra instruments and some sterling string arrangements.
It’s a meaty offering there’s no arguing with that, and it’s taken me a while to fully appreciate its worth.
But now I have, it feels a parting gift from a band that never stopped giving, taking part, playing off its audience, and spreading the love to anyone fortunate enough to feel it.
The only problem with the album is that it appears to be the last one, but like they say, there’s nothing like going out with a bang, as those versed in the lyrics of the song Pony will know.
It would be a shame to see A Different Country go un-noticed in wider terms, it’s an absolute gem, so I suggest you try it out for yourself and then share its sentiment far and wide.
A Different Country is available for £10 (CD), and £7 (digital) from http://lumberjackcowboy.bandcamp.com/album/a-different-country.