SHOTGUN MESSENGER – Shotgun Messenger (Indian Casino Records)
After scanning the reviews page on the Bar and seeing reviews of the Backsliders and Me-Thinks there, my former editor commented, “You have the power to turn Australia on to the power of North Texas hardcore rock.” And why not? The local scene where I’m at is talent-heavy and diverse. Probably just like the one where you are.

Some of the most individuated acts from here in Fort Worth, Where the West Begins, record for the Seattle-based Indian Casino label, which unleashed "The Me-Thinks Present the Make Mine A Double E.P." on the world a coupla years back and has been struggling to recoup its investment ever since. Later this year, the label will release an E.P. of twisted Americana by the band Barrel Delux. And last month, under a complicated arrangement whereby the disc is “on” Indian Casino, although the label isn’t manufacturing or distributing it, the long-awaited debut full-length by this veteran outfit - they’ve been through previous incarnations as Mullet Malicia and the Riverside Ramblers – finally arrived.

You gotta love these guys, and not just because they all thank God in the liner notes as though they were hip-hoppers or something. Musically, the proximate models here are ‘80s metal, Southern boogie, and a dollop of Thin Lizzy. Shotgun Messenger frontguy Steve Smith AKA Steedo is a studly hunk of a man with a two-fisted vocal style that occupies a register at least a couple of octaves south of what most Americans are accustomed to hearing these days. It’s a classic rock ‘n’ roll voice, and it surfs the wave of the estimable Art Autrey’s crunchy guitar, replete with pile-driving right-hand-muted riffs, squealing harmonics, and downright feelthy fuzz-wah solo action. The engine room of Mike Ratliff on bass and Brady Stephens on drums provides solid, workmanlike support. Although Ratliff’s contribution seemed slightly under-recorded on my computer speakers, it sounded fine on the li’l CD player in the bedroom, indicative that engineer Robert Snyder took into account how this disc is going to be listened to when he mastered it.

More to the point, Shotgun Messenger’s songs are tightly constructed, packed with melodic hooks and sing-along choruses that’ll have you pumping your devil sign in the air. “Loki” and “Rosedale Dreams” effectively showcase the band’s Southern-fried side, while “Soak” and “Mindless Games” do the same for their metallic tendencies. “Hardcore Love” lives up to its name, a freewheeling romp that careens along on drummer Stephens’ loose-limbed four-on-the-floor. “Lament” and “Faces” cross over into ballad territory; the former actually has the makings of a bona fide hit. The hidden track, a cover of Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie,” is a nice surprise.

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