There was something wrong with the soundtrack on my recent cross-country drive. We were listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd instead of the Haynes Boys debut album. Theres a little more wisdom and lyricism in the Haynes Boys stanzas than what Skynyrd distilled out of their J&B-soaked rehearsals. Somehow the lyric Neil Young should remember / A Southern Man dont want him around anyhow doesnt reflect a very deep imagination or poeticism two things that Tim Easton, the Haynes Boys songwriter, has in no short supply.
This is not to say that these boys from Franklin County, Ohio, dont echo their predecessors. The Haynes Boys come by their roots-rock songwriting in the conventional manner, if through a few degrees of separation. For instance, before Hank Williams ever got under their skin, it was the Stones and probably Led Zeppelin that they mimicked in their bedroom mirrors. (The pedal steel guitar on Goody Boy is a stepped-up takeoff of the When the Levee Breaks riff.)
The Haynes Boys are not impervious to traditional influences, and thus are not blazing any new trails. Still, if classy were a word used to describe a persons taste in roots-rock, it would fit the Haynes Boys. Nearly a textbook lonely hearts song, The Lonesomes has a peculiar twist that puts singer Tim Eastons songwriting almost on par with John Prines lyrical talent. Another example is the song Hell on Earth:
Thats a mighty strange bark
Two parts hound and one part billy goat
Got a funny way of asking favors
Flat on your back minutes before you pass out
Devil in your eye, fact hes taken over inside
Hes gonna ride you your whole life
Though I love you, I just dont like you tonight.
Without any prior work to compare this to, the Haynes Boys are at a point of grace. The fans cant be disappointed. But for the sake of growth, lets hope their next album shows them groping toward an inarguably unique Franklin County sound.