The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday September 30th

Pistols Aim For True Country Grit

Two Dollar Pistols
Cat's Cradle

In the days of overcommercialized mass-marketed alterna-country, it's refreshing to find an earnest pair of cowboy boots and a six-string guitar.

The antithesis of Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, the difference with the Two Dollar Pistol is that they wear their hats both on and off the stage and don't need a flashy lights show to make the audience pay attention.

With authenticity on its side, the band is two-stepping its way into a much-deserved national spotlight

Led by the roughly hewn singer and guitarist John Howie Jr., the Two Dollar Pistols are resurrecting some of country's greatest -- Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard and George Jones to name a few -- and making their own lasting mark on the music.

The band drew a healthy mid-exams crowd on Dec. 13 as it played to hometown fans at Cat's Cradle. Left wanting by opening act Trailer Bride's slow and melancholy set, the audience enthusiastically greeted the Pistols.

Cranking up the volume and the intensity, the Pistols quickly got the crowd moving. Couples two-stepped, shimmied and chicken-danced their way through ballsy lost-love ballad "Thanks a Lot," sorrowful tribute to the drink "Me, Myself & Wine" and hearty honky tonk tune "Serious Heart Condition."

The Pistols play with such heartfelt enthusiasm for their music and undeniable talent, it's hard to differentiate their own tunes from the classics. While some might interpret this similarity as copycatting, it should instead be taken as testament to their virility as country musicians.

Playing largely from their second album, Step Right Up!, the Pistols laid down self-written tunes "'Til' You Did Wrong by Me" and "Bring the Heartbreak" next to Faron Young's "Wine Me Up" and Buck Owens' "Hello Trouble." The Pistols exhibited a consistency that is rare in studio recordings, much less live performances -- consistently excellent, consistently entertaining and consistently fun.

All such compliments paid, the Two Dollar Pistols are not the country music band to end all bias toward the genre. The group will not convert 'NSync or Metallica fans. They will not be making music videos and appearing on CMT (although Howie Jr.'s stage antics and mutton chops are damn near the best part of the show at times).

But that is not to say that the Two Dollar Pistols are not a success. Howie Jr. made a conscious decision not to head to Nashville, and it has served him well. Being respected local favorites certainly has its perks.

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