The story is classic. A small town kid grows up with music as his only escape from the drudgery of rural life. His guitar is his best friend. He may not have fit in back home because he didn’t play football, but he had the entire discography (all vinyl of course) of every important classic rock band and was taking thorough notes. He grows up, transplants himself into the big city, takes even more notes on the fast-paced lifestyle and finally mixes his findings into songs.
Such is the case with Justin Rueger and his move from a tiny town in Kansas to the Big Apple. He quickly found fellow Midwestern misfit musicians and bound by their mutual displacement, they formed Country Mice. The band has survived Brooklyn long enough to release two 7-inches, shorten its name (formerly “We Are Country Mice”) and now managed to release its debut album. Twister is a hopeful forecast for the future and a nostalgic glimpse of the band’s roots. It leaves them poised somewhere between two lifestyles. But as many bands with similar histories have done before, Country Mice uses this to its advantage, learning from the past rather than completely separating from it.
Yes, the story has been told before. But Justin Rueger, you spin this one so well.
Twister is spent stabilizing an almost apocalyptic tone with country sensibilities. Although Country Mice often tips the balance between the two genres, it sounds most natural when it rests on the thin middle ground.
“Clover” is the clearest example, maintaining a country wail but allowing the guitars to lapse into an all-out rock fury before reverting back again. “Bullet of a Gun” walks the same kind of line, never committing to one side. Country Mice seems to hit its stride with tracks like these, but it doesn’t last long. The band is still obviously looking for a solid foothold and still does some impressive exploration along the way.
“Morning Son” is a delightful tribute to Mice’s origins, reveling in rambling guitar lines and an obvious country motif. It is easy to cross the line into theatrics, though, as with the “Rawhide”-type tribute “Close Behind.” On the other end of Country Mice’s little-bit-country-little-bit-rock-‘n’-roll make up, opener “Ghost” puts a bold foot forward into a dark, brooding rock category. Country Mice can easily fit this bill but again takes one step too far with the droning and unmemorable “Rabbit on a Leash.” Despite an obvious division of influences, there is never a time—save the instrumental closing track—where Twister’s parts feel too disconnected. Strung together by sincerity, Country Mice is still trying to find its sweet spot, but it can hardly be blamed for the search in between.
Country Mice – Twister Tracklist:
- “Morning Son”
- “Rabbit On A Leash”
- “Close Behind”
- “Worn Hearts”
- “Bullet Of A Gun”
- “Bigger Better Leaves”