Boss Caine – The Rhythm and the Rhyme (Part 3 of Backseat Mafia On Tour: York)

Years ago when Gomez first emerged there would always be at least a strain of suspicion running through reviews. For the generous, the fact that this group of adolescents wrote about life experiences they couldn’t have had, in places they might only have seen as wide-eyed tourists, channeled through one particular singer who sounded like an 80 year old delta bluesman, was just evidence of the scale of their ambition and broad/deep love of music. For the harsh, they were ridiculous, abhorrent even, ripping off sounds and stories owned by real, credible people (these same people often wrote favourably about Oasis…) and the notion of a band of British kids writing about a Tex-Mex border romance was the nadir of the experience.

There are moments where Boss Caine courts similar danger. There’s the gruff voice which, because it belongs to a Brit, almost becomes automatically questionable when purveying a lightly country-influenced brand of folky, downhome campfire blues. He’s clearly in love with a fair amount of Americana – but then who isn’t ? Doesn’t seem to me that that is reason enough to decry someone. Sure he sings about “smokes” when he could just as well be a bit more ‘real’ and sing “fags” like anyone else would. Yes, some of the songs feature the kinds of characters that normally adorn songs by grizzled Western singers with murky backgrounds and prison records. But if you listen for a little while it is clear that this isn’t someone ripping something off for their own benefit – even if it were you would have to question their sanity: despite searching, no one has ever found the country-folk springboard to success in this country (for shame…).

For me, Boss Caine is an artist making the music that he most loves to listen to and that, as a musician, he most admires. Swapping fags for smokes would be a bit like breaking the fourth wall. The whole point here is a man working within a style (narrative songwriting, acoustic guitar inflected with some brushed drums, fiddle etc) and doing so effectively and consistently. A self-conscious effort to authenticise this music for its surrounds would do the exact opposite.

“The Rhythm and the Rhyme” is worth checking out and I’m glad to have picked up this honest record on my travels. There’s the delightful turn of phrase in down-at-heel opener “Ghosts and Drunks” (“I’ve kissed mascara rivers/On my way out of the door”). There’s the tender hymn to a maturing romance “Kind of Loving”, – and the worshipful tribute to Gram Parsons (I’m still working on this one – I expect to like him in about ten years’ time, for now, cosmic country is still not clicking for me) in “Truckstop Jukebox”. The standout track is the one that really fits our times. album closer “Not Enough To Try”. I can imagine that this song would resonate so strongly with all too many people right now: money tight, jobs at risk, winter on the way. This Boss has a simple answer in refrain:

“You must stand up and testify
In times of hardship all you can do is try

Help a brother
Help a sister out
Help a brother, help a sister
Don’t you let them go without”

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