Rancho Review: The Council of Smokers and Drinkers

Artists and their management regularly submit records for review here or at GoodSongs.Com.  This gives me welcomed access to new music I might not otherwise hear, given that my preferred genre (alt. country) is pretty scarce on over the air radio.  Even better, it gives me the chance to promote artists who are making the kind of music I like.  It’s a win-win, for sure.

Promoting your music has changed over the past decade, largely in a way that benefits the artist and the listener by removing the big record label cartel from the middle.  One thing, though, remains the same.  As a longtime musician/songwriter, I have always argued that picking the right band name is the most important piece of marketing a band will ever do.  A cool and attention-grabbing name will attract that initial listen that can turn someone into a fan.

Which is why I knew the moment I saw a submission for the debut record Grizzled by The Council of Smokers and Drinkers that I would listen to the record and probably review it.  What an ass-kicking name.  In fact, it caused me to create a new rating for my Rancho Reviews- band name.

So without further adieu, let’s get to, the review.

imageThe Council of Smokers and Drinkers, who hail from Anchorage, Alaska, combines three of my favorite genres- alt. country, rock and blues.  Joe Erickson (drums), Russell Biggs (vocals/guitar), Elizabeth Dubey (vocals and keys), Jonathan Russell (guitar), Mark Kimmins (harmonica) and Mack Rogers (bass) create a smoking sound that’s part Seigel-Schwall Band and part Porter Batiste Stoltz, with a little Brothers and Sisters era Allman Brothers thrown in for good measure.  Anyone who knows my musical taste will tell you that’s a high complement.

The first thing I noticed about the Council is that they can flat out play.  In this era where the barrier to entry is low, internet space is free or cheap and musical success is too often determined by some marketing dude at Disney, it is so refreshing to queue up a record and hear people who are really, really good musicians.  When the Council is in session, instruments are getting the workout of their lives.  Guitars, bass, keyboards, drums.  All played hard and tight.

Chicken in the Pan, the third song, has a mighty bass track, some blazing guitar work and keyboards that would make Chuck Leavell proud.

Little Rock is a Black Crowsy mid-tempo number that became one of my favorites as I listened to the record.

The Best that I Could Do has a funky classic southern rock feel.  I love the line “I didn’t know that she’d break my heart, but I had suspicions.”  Good stuff.

There’s not a bad song on the record.  If I have a criticism, it’s that neither is there one song that simply blows you away.  All of the songs are very good.  As a deep album cuts kind of guy, this is OK with me.  I prefer consistency to the age old approach where you have 4 good songs and a bunch of filler.  There’s no filler here, and while you may not stop what you’re doing and run to the CD Player to see the name of the song that just blew you away, you also won’t have to hit the skip button every other song.

Grizzled is not going to change your life.  But if you enjoy hearing great musicians mix up some righteous county, rock and blues, you’ll like this record.


You can buy Grizzled directly from the band’s web site.