Lance Norris proudly wears his redneck attitude on his sleeve on his Untraditionally Handsome CD. Norris’s gravelly, whisky-soaked voice is rich and full of character, making you believe his tales from the trailer park. His songs come complete with chirpy, twangy guitar melodies that are packed with much musical integrity and earthy storytelling.
Norris opens his album with “Drinking My Paycheck,” a world weary tale of a man who cannot refuse a drink. He keeps the humor and the country guitar picking style coming on strong. You can picture the scenes he so vividly describes in his lyrics, especially the woman he hooks up with who cannot pay her bills. His dead pan delivery make his anecdotes seem even more humorous, like it’s something he lives with every day and no longer thinks twice about living this way.
“See That Woman” finds Norris singing in a somewhat huskier timbre over his brittle country guitar licks. His rhythm section keeps a pulpy, two step groove beneath him while his guitar licks get a little more elaborate. Each lick emotes, chirps out it’s own projection of what the singer is singing about here.
“Drink Until You Want Me” plays out at a lilting pace. Norris picks off gritty country guitar licks over a honky tonk piano. A bit of barrelhouse in its ivory tinkling makes this song fun, rollicking, like a drinking song you share with your favorite buddies. But, you don’t want to have too much to drink before you put this song on or you might miss all of the fine country roots nuances Norris has going on.
“The Truth Is Just One Option” has an aggressive guitar chord progression, like something you might hear in an old western movie. Norris plays his guitar with a hefty strum, and he sings it with a serious tone in his vocal delivery. He holds his vocal notes with a gruff hum that make you sense the essence of the singer’s personality. Norris must be quite the entertainer when he’s performing this song, and his other originals, in front of a live audience. He possess the old rodeo cowboy’s knack for telling a story that can keep an audience spellbound with its possibilities in human experience.
“The Sheriff’s Gone” moves forward with a bossy groove and a hefty strum. Norris, here, delivers yet another tale of drinking and not taking life too seriously. There’s plenty of grit in the guitars too. One strums with rugged persistent while another guitar plays tender brittle melody lines. The weave of instruments and vocal strength indicate talent behind the humorous tales of life at the local watering hole. That, more than anything else, probably accounts for the rave reviews this online album has been racking up.
“Shoes By The Highway” has the album’s grittiest weave of guitar. One strums, One plays the melody. A mandolin plays a brief, persistent spiral of notes. Accordion notes fill in the backdrop handsomely. Norris’s batch of instrumentation forms a hefty core to this song while he sings out with his husky timbre. His story about a love and where it leads is tinged with sadness but overall it’s filled with acceptance, the kind of warm reflection in which things are put into perspective, make more sense, and one moves on with greater wisdom.
A sprightly guitar strum and hefty bass line power Norris‘s ballad “Her Flowers Are My Weeds.” With a gosh darn, what the heck sense of resignation, he lets his gruff timbre fill the tune with warmth and humor. Brisk instrumentation and that hefty voice make quite an impression, especially when Norris holds a vocal note. He can make the barstools and tables vibrate with that extra dose of heft.
“Park It Here, Bub” is a down tempo reflection on being annoyed after a “feather brain” cop rebuked him for parking in a handicap space. Norris takes his sweet time unfolding this quaint ditty, and each verse is worth the wait.
“The Friend Nobody Likes” playfully mocks someone in an old time country music vocal timbre. Norris’ voice here has a rodeo announcer’s edge as he makes his case. Country picking guitar styles load this ditty up with even more warmth and charm. You can actually picture people sitting around on someone’s front porch singing this song in a chummy bit of exuberance.
“Freedom Fries” is more country and western fun as Norris croons in his rebel state timbre. Full of gentlemanly delivery, he describes another view of his vanishing frontier life. Singing again about how wrong things are, Norris actually has a sense of justice. He sings of, in one verse, a store manager being unfair for refusing to serve a Muslim woman wearing a burka. He unfurls his lyrical observations at a pace that gives the listener time to laugh it off before he comes up with another twist on something.
Norris pokes fun at Christmas time with “I Ain’t Santa,” a heartfelt take on life as a very poor family during the most wonderful time of the year. His comedic details paint a picture of a family who gets nothing from “Santa” while dad’s own worldly possessions increase from his tendency toward larceny. Norris can get away with making comedy out of a sad situation because he has that country singer-songwriter’s witty comical observation. He’s also good at tongue in cheek delivery. You know he doesn’t meant it while he makes you laugh at the louse of a selfish father-husband.
“Good Enuf” is an accordion and mandolin flavored down tempo piece with Norris’s easeful delivery creating a welcoming vibe. His off-handed wit is sharp as hell here too, but he, as always, makes you feel it’s all in good fun. The explicit “Dick Nibbler’s All-Star Weenie Roast” takes the humor to a higher and raunchier level. Norris pokes good natured fun at the peccadillo of many Hollywood stars, and it’s a trailer park delight.
Norris closes out with the gritty solo acoustic piece “And I’m Mean.” The listener gets another of Norris’s tongue in cheek descriptions of redneck life. The song is about a man describing his marriage and home life with his wife who describes him as “mean” and “a jerk.” He is actually poking fun at the misinformed view that good ole boys are household bullies and the idea that their women live miserable lives just by being married to them. The southern infection in Norris’s timbre and the accented guitar notes beneath his voice are fine home cooked griddle, perky notes that support the lyrics self-satisfied lyrics.
Norris is quite a country and western talent and quite a hoot throughout this album. If Jeff Foxworthy was a country and western musician and singer-songwriter, this is the material he might come up with. So, crack open a can of Bud, put on this CD, and admire the furry taxidermist trophies on the wall.