Say Yeah Yeah Yeah! to Carol Pacey & The Honey Shakers

One afternoon I was sitting in a Tennessee dive bar sipping on whiskey and writing poetry next to a big burly fellow that looked like he could kill me by just twitching and a country song came on the jukebox–a terrible country song, not good country. It didn’t have grit, wit or wisdom, it was sad and slow and it made my ears ache, when suddenly the man that had been slamming gigantic mugs of beer, slapped the counter loudly, looked at me with a crazy stare and said loudly, “You know what sucks about most country?” he paused to see my reaction which was one of interest, then roared “It’s not fucking rock’n'roll!” We both laughed and agreed this was true, his name was Crazy Jim and somehow I think Crazy Jim would love the holy hell out of Carol Pacey & The Honey Shakers, because they take the best of Americana, the best of country and set it to the furious pace of pure rock’n'roll. Their new debut album Yeah Yeah Yeah! may be the most perfect crossroads where Country Rock/Americana meets Power Pop…and at the speed most of it is presented in, it’s like “Americana Thrash Pop” and it’s simply amazing.

If you are unaware of Carol Pacey & The Honey Shakers I want you to imagine the rootsy side of Social Distortion fronted by a powerfully lively woman instead of Mike Ness. The combination of Carol Pacey on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Andy Borunda on lead guitar, Dante Fiorenza on bass and Ben DeLuca on drums is pretty awesome–something that will shatter your soul especially if you catch them live and luckily there is ample opportunity to do that this summer. They are a great band to watch while sipping whiskey and imagining yourself in a Tennessee bar. I have been wanting to write about this band for a long time and before they knew me, I would hide in the back of the room checking out their shows at the Yucca Tap Room impressed with their vitality, sound and style whether they were playing to five people or packing the place. After they knew me, I just kept begging them for recordings and something I could write about. Yeah Yeah Yeah! was everything I could have hoped for and more.

The album opens with the wildly sizzling “Do You Think Someday” which is about the end of a what seems to have been a great relationship that end on very dodgy terms. Here she asks about the future reverie that her lover will have about the time they spent together.  It’s an interesting concept lyrically and musically it is a rollicking three minute blast that shows you just who Carol Pacey & The Honey Shakers are, the amazing thing is that the velocity with which this song is delivered sets the entire pace for the album and it doesn’t let up once, not an obligatory slow song in the bunch. It’s truly unrelenting.  You would think something titled “The Knitting Song” would be a slow burner, but you would be wrong, it’s just as intense as the opener which is a brave move honestly.  It’s a song of hope and freedom, about releasing yourself from the bondage of a tie that makes you cry and finding your way to live life enjoying yourself: “She unclenched her hands. She unchained her heart. She let her soul free. It took a running start. Her dreams unfurled right before her eyes. With a long deep breath, she heard, ‘Fly, girl, fly. Oh fly, girl, fly. Fly, girl, fly. Fly, girl, fly. Fly, girl, fly.’” Brilliant.

“Fool” is next up and its one of the must most amusing song, because lyrically, it’s where the album title comes from, but also it is filled with back to back platitudes and aphorisms that it must have been a been a blast to write. There are so many familiar casual sayings contained here that I can’t even keep track of them. It’s also a tale of female empowerment that makes it’s point clear and is clearly about a liar who I hope didn’t fool her twice and that she saw the forest for the trees. Switching to “Epic Love Fail” we have a pretty honest story about the morning after a drunken one night stand and its brilliant to hear this portrayed from a regretful female perspective. It’s also fairly comical as it describes her hiding in the flat as he wonders where she went. And there is gritty wisdom: “Every night we search for love leaving most of us sad and alone, don’t you ever wonder what we should have known?”  It is an amazing story to be sure and wonderful to hear it from a woman’s eyes.  By the time you are at “The Bonus” you realize that there may not be any letting up on the rocketing rhythm and speed, honestly, I’m impressed that Carol can deliver her lyrics so swiftly, her machine gun deliver is amazing and in this song it sounds indeed like she’s shooting someone down.  Another point about her poignant lyrics is that while they may be about loss or regret or ill fitted suitors, you can tell they are always delivered with a grin, “The bonus is  that I’m way more cheery than you!”

“Happy Little Tune” is a jaunty little song with mariachi horns about heading south of the border for the weekend where the sun can go down on you with radiant beams. It less than three minutes long and it’s just a blast that expresses the pure joy of getting away and soaking in the rays of the Mexican sun.  What follows is my absolute track on the album which is a tribute to what I love most, “Rock And Roll Saves” should be released as a single as soon as possible. Once more Carol gives here shotgun delivery lyrically and the music just blasts away–this song sticks in my head more than anything else and I can’t help but grin wildly every time I hear it because I completely relate: “No matter where I’ve lived on Earth there was always rock’n'roll to save my life when trouble tried to steal my soul.” I never could have said it better myself. “I need music in my life more than life itself” is another good hook that makes my soul scream “YES!” I think this should be their first pro video as well. The appropriately titled “The Grind” describes exactly that, the daily grind of the Monday through Friday work world that most of us are well aware of and the dim rewards of which are returning to home and counting down the minutes to the moment of departure. The song is well played in somewhat mocking the routine we put ourselves through each and every day.

Mariachi horns return for “Down In Mexico” which another song about fun travels South of the border, but this time it’s about blatant drunken adventures and good times as well as the inevitable hangover. I have to say that Carol presents the personae she presents through her songwriting is a hard living, hard loving and hard partying soul that lives in the moment and though may have regrets, there is always clever optimism to shine through any darkness. I often wonder if Pacey could pen a song about suicide and make it sound cheery in some capacity. With “One Of These Days” she rocks through a tune about another failed relationship, but this one she can’t quite get over and resorts to what many of us have done,  looking for the number, almost dialing, driving by their lovers house late at night, essentially normal hung up human behavior. “OK, it ain’t that I’m not pretty and pretty smart that’s true, but something in my heart won’t went let me get over you” is such a classic hook I can’t stand it.

Again, they fool you with the beginning and you think that “Take Your Bad News And Go Away” will be the slow number, but after twenty seconds you know it’s not and you have to deal with the fact that there is no slow song on this album period.  It is an anthem of refusal against negativity and anyone that delivers it to us. This will be seriously the song I play after a horrible day at the office filled with negativity and bile to free myself of that energy. I think the reason that I feel that Carol Pacey & The Honey Shakers is akin to Social Distortion with a completely empowered woman at the helm is due to the finale. “Roll My Way” is such a fantastic way to end the album, every bit as searing as the starter songs, a final punctuation to an album that never let up once that just rocked your ears through twelve songs and forty minutes that had your heart racing the entire time. Vocal shotgun deliver, guitar velocity, pounding punk drums, and a bass groove to make you drool this song has it all–there are no shortcomings here.  There is irony, it is one of the most lyrically negative songs in the album and it’s also one of the hardest rocking. “Thank you Tempe and goodnight” indeed.

I would be very surprised if Yeah Yeah Yeah! does not end up being one of my top five albums of the year for the pure energy and positivity it possesses. It’s as if a Riot Grrrl went country and discovered her inner self. This should be played at every party this year, because it will incite good times no matter where it is heard. This is awesome music from four amazing people with a shared vision to deliver the tales told by a woman who has lived life intently and intensely, she has taken the rollercoaster instead of the merry go round and she is still smiling and having fun. The cool thing is that she wants  you to smile and have fun too, so why not give a listen.

Carol Pacey & The Honeyshakers have the honor of opening the KWSS Local Stage Festivities at the Summer Ends Music Festival on Friday, September 26th at Tempe Beach Park. For all the information on that, click the picture of the event below, get there early they kick this thing off at 5:30pm!