Like Father, Like Bastard Son
“Walk Alone”
Grade: A/B

Looking for a new, alternative spin on the country rock jams of Johnny Cash? Check out Walk Alone, the new album from his self-proclaimed illegitimate children, The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash.

Now, Cash doesn’t actually perform on the album, and these are not really his children, but he did give them permission to say that they are. In any event, these boys rock the hoe-down with the same hard-drinking and hard-rocking style as their adopted dad.

Many die-hard pop fans will initially be put off by the country music sound of the album. But the melodies are actually kind of fun. Following in Cash’s staggering footsteps, nearly every song pays a loving homage to drinking, women, the road and, of course, the ugly things that happen when you combine all three.

On “Interstate Cannonball,” a ditty about a truck driver, “Head Bastard” Mark Stuart sings, “I slept with every waitress from Bakersfield to Ohio/ ‘Cuz I’m the interstate cannonball and down the highway I roll.” Each song on Walk Alone tells a meaningful story about the aforementioned topics.

Lead singer Stuart explains his reasoning for this on the band’s website, saying, “I’ve always liked stories about beating the odds ? true-life stories with characters you can relate to. The best country music always has great stories in it.”

Speaking of beating the odds, BSOJC was actually founded back in 1995, but earned its big break when Merle Haggard asked them to open for his tour in 1999. They have since jammed with the likes of Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams and Tim McGraw.

Based in San Diego, Calif., BSOJC calls itself “modern country with an outlaw spirit.” Really, it’s country with a bit of honky-tonk blues, electric guitars and an evil streak. In a sort of “tip of the cowboy hat” to Merle, BSOJC provide a southwestern rendition of his song “Silver Wings.” Also, naturally, there’s a song about heartbreak. It’s called “Blade,” and is a little darker than your average Q106 fare: “Is that a smile in your eyes?/ As you twisted it inside/ As you cut away the ties/ That held me to you.” But immediately after this dark moment, the disc promptly returns to its jovial mood with the twangy tongue-in-cheek ballad, “Seven Steps,” a lament about being seven deadly sins away from the perfect woman.

There are a lot of people who would rank country music right up there with fingernails on a blackboard in terms of listening pleasure, and they’re just going to have to miss out on this disc. But for those who actually enjoy country, or can tolerate it when it’s clever, Walk Alone is worth at least a listen. The melodies are embarrassingly catchy, the lyrics are intentionally humorous and the musicianship is smoothly integrated. With an album full of songs about amphetamines, Memphis women and drinking whiskey, one can truly say: like father, like bastard son.