The Norman Transcript

November 7, 2013

Music review: Starlings, TN create music reflective of the South

by Doug Hill
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Musician: Starlings, TN

Album name: All the Good Times (2013, Chicken Ranch Records)

Why you should listen: Hipster hayseed quartet Starlings, TN are unmistakably sons of the South. Based in Austin, their band’s name is pronounced Starlings, Tennessee. Google Maps finds no place by that name in the Volunteer State but their new album “All the Good Times” sounds as if it’s more a state of mind. The disc is on Chicken Ranch Records whose slogan is “We Gots Our Own Damn Town Music.”

A pair of the songs make reference to genuine places below the Mason Dixon line. “Back to Magnolia” is sweeter than syrup on buttermilk biscuits. It’s lead vocalist and band leader Steven Stubblefield’s homage to his family’s home. Although the lyrical sentiment may not be popular down at the Southern Baptist church in town, he hopes in his “next life” to return as a honey bee buzzing around Magnolia’s blossoms.

“Oh! Whiskey” is a tribute as well, to the clear or brown liquor favored throughout the Deep South. “Whiskey sweet/ whiskey mine/ my one true love/ my only crime,” Stubblefield sings. It’s a passionate anthem with a sly allusion to oral sex.

The world may not have been clamoring for another cover of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” but track five here is an up-tempo twang twister. The exciting musicianship justifies the choice of a certified chestnut. Folks in much of this great nation would have no clue what to expect from seeing a song titled “Burnt Ends.” It’s about the smoky crust of a perfectly charred beef brisket found on good barbecue restaurant menus from Kansas City to Dallas. Stubblefield’s jarring line about putting “yaller mustard” on anything barbecue only slightly detracts from an otherwise terrific tune. Barbecue variations can be an article of faith in these parts, son. Pay a visit to Starlings, TN for a kaleidoscopic listen to their new songs of the south.

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