Boots & The Hoots – Broken and Jokin’

Following up a successful Kickstarter campaign and June’s Pinecone Opry, Boots and the Hoots had a summer packed with tour dates across western Canada. Last month, Boots had a big break on the set of a music video with silent film auteur, Keith Picot. He got a fresh new boot out of the deal, but it’s definitely not made for walking. Though the injury was bad, it wasn’t a show stopper. Especially since Boots, Tyler Allen and Curtis Glas, are coming home to celebrate the release of Boots and The Hoots III, Sunday September 9th at Bo’s.

The new album is the group’s best work yet. It tightly shuffles through songs about barstools, heartache, and the life of playing music for broken hearted people on barstools. Boots has loaded each song with enough jokes and wordplay to make me wonder where we draw the arbitrary line between music and musical comedy. But it’s not always all laughs. The surprisingly heartfelt “Your Song” would be notable solely for not featuring any jokes if it wasn’t also finely written and performed. Other tracks find Boots contemplating his troublemaking past (and present and future). His songs may feature rough-around-the-edges stories and situations, but he’s always in such a personable mode that the charm wins. It’s a natural performance that takes the edge off the topics, so much so that one line on “Lowered the Bar” sounds gosh darned sharp coming out of his mouth.

Boot’s guitar work is firmly planted in the back of the mix, often only drawing attention when he sings about being a poor guitarist. I think his self-deprecation disguises his understanding of showmanship. Why show off when he’s got Tyler Allen proving his Tele is the set you want to watch? My only complaint about Tyler Allen is that when he’s playing the guitar, he’s not playing the banjo. But we’re only lucky enough for one. The album also marks the end of Sean Vanderbrink’s tenure as a Hoot with a solid farewell on the bass.

The Hoots are firing on all cylinders, but it’s the company they keep that pushes III from great to mighty fine. Some very talented new faces and old pals join the trio on this effort. Kayla Hotte adds harmonies to “Your Song”, apparently having to rerecord it after realizing it was joke-free. Gary Okrainec takes a run at MVH on the pedal steel, stealing the show with his wonderful instrumentation. He even gets in on the jokes, taking a run at the “Best Joke” award near the end of “Turnpike.” Calgary’s rockabilly upstart, Howlin’ Pete Cormier, is on the piano turning the honkytonk up to the max. A first for a Boots album, the Provincial Archive’s Bramwell Park provides drums that keep the album motoring all the way from the turnpike to the fishing hole.

SCENE NEXT – Pinecone Oprys are hella fun. Did you see Howlin’ Pete’s standing-on-the-bass guitar solo?! No? That’s ok, it’s hard to see everything. Though Boots probably won’t do any standing let alone guitar soloing, you’ll still get to compare his performance to Dave Grohl. Plus, it’s the hometown release of a mighty fine new album!? This one’s gonna be good. Make sure to tell your friends.

All together now: “Boots and the boys will be back at Bo’s, Sunday September 9th. But if busted Ol’ Boots can’t bear to be at Brennan’s bar—because of the bummer break – I hope that he can have a beer, since it’s still too soon to have a hoot.”

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