Moonshine isn’t the dirty word it used to be. In fact the popularity of the Discovery Channel show that’s (allegedly) about people making illegal liquor while staying one step ahead of the law has helped bring a term associated with rural i.e. “country” living to national prominence. It’s also created a confusing milieux of “legal” and “illegal” shine in the marketplace, as distillers rush to bring out products labeled “moonshine” even though the very definition of shine used to be “that white lightning you can’t buy in stores.” Unless you bought it off the back of a pickup truck and it came in a washed out plastic milk jug, odds are it’s not “moonshine” in any way but a marketing name. The plugs side is that it’s probably safer to drink than that white lightning – after all some regulations exist for good reasons.
The Moonshine Bandits have long used the implications of drinking hooch in their name to imply just how country they are. The fact they come from a city in California (Los Banos) bigger than the population of most counties where I grew up is not lost on me though, nor is the fact they look more like mechanics and truck drivers than what I associate with “country” – both from stereotypes and personal experience. The Bandits themselves seem to have realized people are getting confused as to what country IS and how country they ARE, so “We All Country” seeks to paint country with a broad brush. The chorus sums it up this way: “East coast, West coast, we all country/Dirty South, Midwest, it’s all country.” They go even further on “California Country,” getting specific about how country where they’re from is, and explaining the name of their new album in the process.
“Pack of tobacco, bottle of shine
Pontoon boat and some fishing line
Blow a little smoke just to ease our mind
That’s California country!
Lake in the woods and the water feels fine
Girls on my dick with no tan lines
Bonfire lit on them summer nights
That’s California country!”
I have no problem with the Moonshine Bandits defining their musical style or their lifestyle as “country.” Even if it was conceived solely as a marketing gimmick, it’s not one that they contradict or betray at any point. The sound and the topic matter stay consistently within the narrow confines of acceptable redneck subject matter. The Bandits are constantly in search of a “Bar Stool” on the “Wrong Side of the Street” where they can get drunk and “Raise Some Hell.” If you spent a day hanging out with the Bandits it would no doubt look and sound like the latter song to a tee:
“Born to raise hell ’til I seen the grave
Take a jar in the bar with a finger to wave
I play the rowdiest spots all across the state
Where there’s Harleys and trucks and the roads ain’t paved
Parking lot burnouts and rubber smoking
Got the sheriff up in clouds – hit that motherfucker choking
.. whiskey bent and hellbound
So the only way to slow me down is jail now”
There’s not a lot about the Moonshine Bandits a parent of an impressionable youth would want to hear. “Put the shine in my casket when they lower me down” is a quip from “Feel No Pain” featuring Danny Boone, and whether inebriated high or dead that’s the state of being they seek – an intoxicating freedom from life’s ups and downs. One of the more vulgar and unfair stereotypes of rural i.e. country people is that they’re “simple folk” without college degrees or Ph.Ds who haven’t a care or concern. As noted though the Bandits are doing their best to fit all the cliches though whether good or bad, and I certainly can’t tell you from listening to “Calicountry” that these are complicated men. Eat, drink, fuck, sleep. Eat, shit, fuck, repeat. That’s about as deep as it gets. There are times we all need an escape from the overwhelming problems of the world though, so if you want to get a little country to get away from it all, the Bandits will hook you up.