In the late '90s and early '00s, the Rockhouse Ramblers was St. Louis' best bet for authentic honky-tonk music and classic, colorful country swing. The group released two albums and disbanded in 2005, but not before recording an album, Lies & Damn Lies, which displays myriad charms and gleefully anachronistic verve. As befits a band whose sonic touchstones barely made it into the '60s, the disc sounds as good as it did during the Ramblers' heyday.
The band was always a triple threat, with three singers and songwriters all offering their distinct songs and voices. Lies works well thanks to this interplay because its sound doesn't settle into one mode. Rhythm guitarist Kip Loui brings a pop-country croon to his songs, while Gary Hunt's electric guitar work and rough-edged vocals keep things from sounding too mannered; bassist Dade Farrar's vibrato-heavy, hiccupping vocals hone in on the best kind of hillbilly soul. Add John Horton's never-miss guitar playing and Danny Kathriner's steady, nimble drumming, and the band can summon a smooth Bakersfield sound or beer-soaked balladry. Farrar's "If I Knew Now (What I Knew Then)" is the best example of the latter, his regret made palpable with lithe guitar lines and supportive harmony vocals. Hunt's "Over and Over" is the set's best barroom rocker, and Loui's "Shades of Grey and Blue" has some of his most wry lyrical turns.
Since the band stopped performing, these musicians have continued playing around town — Hunt and Farrar in Colonel Ford, Loui with the Transmitters and Horton with the Bottle Rockets, among others – but the Ramblers will be reuniting this Friday for a show at Blueberry Hill. Lies is too good for a one-and-done show, though — so hopefully the Ramblers will continue to play these twangy, hip-shaking songs around town.