In the olden days of American music, before radios, television, highways, and the internet homogenized everything, regional styles and traditions reigned. And yet, the rich regionalism of America continues today, fighting against the Walmart-ization of American culture. Columbia, MO trio The Hooten Hallers are out front of this charge, reclaiming the heritage of their Missouri roots. With their new self-titled album (to be released April 21, 2017 on Big Muddy Records), they continue their decade-long search for these roots, drawing from the surrounding agricultural lifestyles, the river communities, the college kids and the tweakers that roam Columbia, Missouri, all in the looming foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Other bands would have jumped ship for a metropolitan city long ago, but there’s a sense of pride in these stubborn personalities that tie The Hooten Hallers inextricably to their place. Their regional foundation inspires their music, from pre-war blues to New York Dolls-inspired punk rock to Legendary Shack Shakers-esque Americana Gothic, all of it tying them to the Missouri river and the new regional traditions being made every day. As they say in Missouri, it’s not quite the Midwest and it’s not quite the South. In the same vein, the Hooten Hallers’ music isn’t quite Americana and it’s not quite punk, but a bit of both, fused together in a drunken tangle.
The Hooten Hallers are known for hard-traveling and for busting tour vans–four since January of 2016– with their huge touring schedule, playing blurry back-room bars and rural dancehalls across the US. They’ve injected their new album with the stories and characters they’ve been meeting on the road all this time. The album opener “Charla” sets the scene in the oppressive summer heat of Lupus, MO (population 29) at the infamous annual chili festival. Sweet old hippy Charla hands you a mason jar full of moonshine before you pass out in the shed behind her house. It’s made even more palpable when you find out Lupus’ citizens, when the town flooded severely in the 90s, were offered a government grant to move but instead chose to put their houses on stilts. This kind of scrappy hometown pride is key to The Hooten Hallers’ ability to ride the line between DIY punk and American country roots music. It’s not uncommon to walk into one of their shows to see outlaw bikers dancing next to some college kids, dancing next to an aging hippy, dancing next to a couple parents with kids at home with the babysitter.
The Hooten Hallers’ new self-titled album, was a family affair, drawing from the band’s extended community in St. Louis, MO. Ryan Koenig, of Pokey Lafarge’s South City Three, came on to produce, Chris Baricevic, the heart and soul behind Big Muddy Records, picked the album up for his label, and it was all recorded by Johnny Walker of the Soledad Brothers. The trio set themselves up in a former Masonic lodge turned art collective over two weeks to fine-tune the music. New member Kellie Everett brought the deep rumble of her baritone and bass saxophone, pushing the trio towards the kind of rollicking street busking music that first inspired them. John Randall’s demonically-tinged vocals and blues-inspired, manic guitar, and Andy Rehms steady, pounding drum beat kept the band focused on their trademark blend of deep blues and country punk. With the amount of sound these three musicians put out, it’ll likely be a surprise to listeners to find out that they’re not a full band! When The Hooten Hallers come to town, you know it’s gonna be a party. Now, ten years later and with nothing to prove, they’re back on the road again with a new fire burning in their bellies.