Reviews Zone

Chris Shiflett: West Coast Town (SideOneDummy Records)  Out now



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



If I write two magic words at the start of this review, I am positive it will grab the attention of at least 50% who get to read this. Those two words are “Foo” and “Fighters”. Yep, it’s that Chris Shiflett; lead guitarist with rock mammoths The Foo Fighters for almost two decades. But this is his solo stuff, and very good it is too.

The other 50% of the readership for this review will be drawn in by the words “Americana”, “Alt. Country”, “Nashville” and “Free £20 notes”. I made the last one up! It is obvious that Mr Shiflett’s heart is well and truly at home in this genre. He may be rocking his balls off with Dave Grohl and the boys for his day job, but this is clearly a labour of love and a natural fit.

Away from The FF’s, “Shifty” is an accomplished alt-country songwriter, guitarist, singer and band leader. He is also a pop-punk pioneer and his history in the underground punk scene was partly what motivated Mr Grohl to hire Chris after his audition. This autobiographical solo album is inspired by the unique twang of California’s country tradition and the unique stomp of the Rolling Stones. His third solo album, a follow-up to the 2013 release, “All Hat and No Cattle”.

“West Coast Town” was recorded at RCA’s Historic Studio A in Nashville over a three-week period, working with Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb –  who has done some great work with with Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson – and Grammy Award winning Engineer, Matt Ross-Spang. They assembled a group of ‘A-list’ studio musicians including pedal steel guitarist Robby Turner (Chris Stapleton), drummer Chris Powell (Brent Cobb, Jamey Johnson), bassist Adam Gardner (Southern Family), and keyboardist Michael Webb (Southern Family).

The 10 snug-fit songs offer an even listen, six penned by Shiflett and four co-writes with Brian Whelan. He dips in and out of the different styles of country, to deliver a fizzing record that will probably end up being filed under ‘Americana’. It has the attitude of a rock and roller, which gives it balls, while the material offers a good balance of light and shade.  But most of all, this is no imitator or rock star playing at being a country shit kicker. Hats and boots don’t make you authentic. No, this cool cat IS as authentic as it gets.

Christopher Aubrey “Chris” Shiflett, at 46-years-old, pays homage to the country music pioneers and originators as well as pushing the envelope to create a contemporary “alt “ sound of his own. It’s a sharp mix and should appeal to honky tonkers, fans of the Bakersfield sound, and help to keep country music alive in the eyes and ears of the younger listener, who admire him as a guitarist and a Foo Fighter. They will hopefully dig this stuff enough to go look up the likes of Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Mere Haggard and more. They best Google Steve Earle, Todd Snider and Dwight Yoakham while they are at it.

Every cut here was captured in two or three takes, so that live feel definitely adds value. Real chemistry between the players and Shiflett, sounding more like a road-worn band than guys who pop in for a session fee, read those Nashville numbers system charts, get the tracks down in superfast time and note perfect, and then on to the next session.

The vocals are not polished to within an inch of their life, and the entire production value seems to be quite under-stated, allowing the songs to speak for themselves, and the band, inc Chris, to simmer and cook. Chris is clearly a story teller and he does the job well. “Sticks And Stones” tells the tale of a couple at war, the title track reminiscing about his childhood growing up in California, “Goodnight Little Rock” is a story most bands will relate to; playing to very small audiences or empty rooms in bars and clubs, coping with “shitty” PA systems  and then back on the road in the old van and sharing rooms in run down motels.

There’s a few obligatory lost loves and heartbreak/ache songs, of course. Country is not country without a guy crying into his beer/whisky at the bar about some woman who he lost/misses/wants back……I do hear if you play a country record backwards, the drunk guy in the roadhouse gets his job, wife, truck and dog back!

Chris’ first foray with country music came in 2010 when he formed Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants, releasing a self-titled album in July 2011. They followed up with the 2013 honky tonk covers and originals album, “All Hat And No Cattle”. He hosts his own weekly podcast, “Walking the Floor with Chris Shiflett”, which features interviews with legendary and current country musicians. He has issued 81 episodes, as of April 2017.

  • Chris Shiflett has announced a rare solo show in London on 13th June, at the famous 100 Club in Oxford Street, where he will be playing an acoustic show without a band, showcasing material from this new record. Joining Nic Cester on the bill. It is understood that Chris will announce a second UK show soon.


By Simon Redley



1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’





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