The O’s – Thunderdog

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

The O's

Thunderdog - Punchfive Records

Thanks to the success of indie folk in the mainstream, perusing the landscape for the pure of heart has become a much more involved process.  With so many bands stripping down and picking up an acoustic array, everyone wants to be the next Mumford & Sons largely for the sake of passing trends.  But when collective interests move on and the dust settles, it will be bands like Dallas, TX duo The O’s that maintain a fierce following of fans in it for the long haul.

If like me the band’s third full length, Thunderdog, also serves as your introduction, then you’re in for a healthy first impression.  Always playing in an optimistic key, The O’s strive for a sunny, feel good bluegrass mood brought forth from a roving crew of instruments made up of acoustic guitar, kick drum, slide, and harmonica.  Propelled by a rhythmic lead banjo and toe-tapping chorus, “Outlaw” fills the role of instantly loveable upbeat single that fans will no doubt use to introduce friends to The O’s.  Yet the sincerity in the message remains strong; “we all fight the good fight, we all know what is right, we all work too hard to have nothing change” sings John Pedigo of the day-to-day.  The message feels every bit as earthy and authentic as the instruments that shape it.

Co-vocalist Taylor Young’s booming baritone contrasts well with Pedigo’s lighter frame.  The difference means that each can jump in to add a unique flare as required by the atmosphere and content.  Young’s deep words come well suited for the dusty edge of songs like “Dallas.”  Likewise he sets up a sense of honky tonk and front porch living, aided by an energizing audience of hand claps and distant yelps in the boot stompin’ number “Go With Me.”  Meanwhile Pedigo’s Slim Cessna-like delivery fits the bill for the frail meander of somber strings strung together in the casually executed “You Are The Light.”

As the final track, “Kitty,” shows, there’s more to The O’s than even a diverse offering like Thunderdog showcases.  The track really embraces and experiments with blues music.  Young’s baritone switches from country cowboy to shade sporting nightclub musician and Pedigo even plays his banjo through a fuzz pedal.  It’s quite the album closer.

If there’s one weakness to the album, it’s songs like “Running Games.”  There are probably a few too many tracks that rely primarily on the banjo’s call.  The songs achieve the most personality when the instrument shares lead duties.  For example, “Rearranged” in particular succeeds in tastefully trading off with a rustic harmonica.

With each authentic note, The O’s make Thunderdog a thoroughly enjoyable trek into America’s backcountry.  For such a cleanly produced album, Thunderdog coats all of their catchy choruses and swingin’ hooks in a thin layer of country dust.  Consequently, the songs feel natural and never formulated.  And when that dust settles, Thunderdog is the album that will get The O’s deservingly noticed.