Honky-tonk bars and love-sick cowboys aren’t exactly common on Long Island. And they certainly don’t make it into the New York punk scene. But somehow Earl Pickens managed to transition his Anti-Folk, East Village holler to more subdued, Lone Star drawl and do just that. Apparently the epiphany to move into a more red state sound came from hearing Willie Nelson’s “Wake Me When It’s Over.” I guess now that Willie has gone reggae, Picken’s departure from NYC punk seems just a logical.
Country Music Jukebox offers a twelve song selection of sorrow, that nods politely to the greats of the genre, with Hank Williams getting his due in the title track. Each song is full of sad stories, and the collection as a whole paints the full picture of well worn bar stools and the downtrodden flies that sulk above them. It’s a notable first time work, and if this is where Pickens feels he belongs, he’ll be a fine alternative to the glossy pop-country all over the place. But if you’re one of those “I like everything except country” types, stick to his old stuff.