For someone particularly neurotic, the words, "You Just Relax, Honey," would fall on deaf ears. But for even the most anxious, Jonathan Warren and the BillyGoats' debut full-length album of the same name is as comfortable as a favorite chair. Warren's alt-country style compels beer-drinking and front-porch lounging, while the consistent rhythms and simple themes help erase away any mental chaos.
Warren brings an authenticity to his craft that speaks of an earlier generation, as if he and his BillyGoats—David Sather-Smith on cello and vocals, Conor Madden on cajon, Ty Clayton on mandolin and vocals and Tim Penningtom on banjo—grasp "old-timey" in a way that even actual old timers might not. And Warren's singing hearkens back to long ago time, too.
In "Strangetown," he whispers a soft tangent about an uncertain and inhospitable future, but the very next track, "Dig a Ditch," takes a different tone and an aggressive growl while describing the same subject. Need more cowbell? The upbeat chorus has a cheerful and unmistakable clank in the background. Reminiscent of a church hymnal, "Drop," would easily fit on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.
Imagine a hot summer day, a blanket laid out on the grass, a picnic basket, a bottle of wine and a live performance by Jonathan Warren and the BillyGoats. Just relax? You bet.