SupersuckersHoldin’ the Bag(Acetate)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Since the veteran Seattle-by-way-of-Tucson punk rocking Supersuckers never do things in a small way, they have been—with apologies to Donny and Marie– a lot country and a lot rock and roll for decades. For their first album since 2013’s roaring Get the Hell, the Eddie Spaghetti led three piece dons their C&W hats for this typically in your face offering that shows why they have been one of Americana’s most uncompromising acts for a quarter century. Like Motorhead, whose Lemmy is namechecked in the updated lyrics to Hank Williams Jr.
"It ain't about what happened here/No, it ain't about what just went down/ The only thing, let me make this clear/Is that we pick ourselves off of the ground. " With these words, Eddie Spaghetti begins the tenth album from his band the Supersuckers, 2015's Holdin' the Bag, and the lyrics have particular resonance if you know Spaghetti was battling a rare form of throat cancer in the months that preceded the recording of the album. These days, Spaghetti sounds like a thick-skinned survivor in more ways than one, and while Holdin' the Bag is ostensibly a country album (much as 1997's Must've Been High sounded like some bonged-out variation on Lone Star country), most of the songs recall the Supersuckers' usual brand of high attitude, middle-finger rock, only performed with a less aggressive approach, as acoustic guitars, fiddles, banjos, and steel guitars make their way into the arrangements alongside the usual Les Pauls and Marshall amps.
“I don’t want to be the one left holdin’ the bag”. With that somewhat downcast lyric Supersuckers intro their latest album, Holdin’ the Bag, using this weary title track to reflect not only the band’s particular circumstances—specifically, lead singer and main architect Eddie Spaghetti’s recent diagnosis of stage four throat cancer—but the rebellious reputation they’ve ingrained over the entire course of their career. When they follow up that understated opener with the pissed off assertion that, “This life would be a whole lot better if I didn’t have to share it with you” (sung alongside special guest Hayes Carll) it’s already clear, a scant two songs in, that they’re still wearing their antagonistic attitude on their collective sleeves.
Always fronted by larger-than-life singer-bassist Eddie Spaghetti, the Supersuckers have traversed a rocky path, various line-ups and over 10 studio albums since forming in Tucson and relocating to Seattle nearly 25 years ago, where they signed to Sub Pop. Their leader is currently facing the biggest fight of his life after being diagnosed with throat cancer, a charity drive under way to pay for his treatment. The follow-up to 2014’s Get To Hell sees the band further exploring the country element which has always underpinned their music, resulting in a compelling set which effortlessly tramples many of the more buffed-up new bands pulling from the same well.
Eddie Spaghetti goes grits and gravy. The bad news, if you’re a fan of the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World in their blood-and-thunder mode, is that this is a country record. The good news, obviously, is that it’s a country record made by The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World. .
The Upshot: Country punks indulge their country roots this time around with a little more twang. But that middle finger is still liberally employed. Supersuckers’ front man/bassist Eddie Spaghetti may be battling stage-3 throat cancer, but he sure as hell isn’t spending the time feeling sorry for himself. On Holdin’ the Bag, the country punks’ first outing since their leader’s diagnosis, the band is just as casually brilliant as always; fiercely ornery and bitingly witty.