The full-band energy and Red Dirt songwriting of Mike and the Moonpies gets them booked for honky-tonk nights by some and likened to outlaw country legends by others. The band's surprise new album, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, released without warning on Friday (Aug. 2), was partially recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, England, and furthers both perceptions without the band betting all of its silver and gold on the same nostalgia-saddled racehorses.

The album's opening track, “Cheap Silver,” establishes Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold as anything but your typical album from a Texas-bred band — even if typical Texas country tops most places’ best exports. The opening notes of the string-accompanied song sound more like something from an Electric Light Orchestra deep cut than an homage to the slick, classy Nashville sound. It's a curveball made possible by the album's recurring special guests: the London Symphony Orchestra.

Musical finesse and country storytelling meet again later on the album, on the AM gold stroll “Young in Love” and the more country radio-friendly ‘70s throwback “Miss Fortune” (featuring Nikki Lane). Both examples tribute a different era of popular music yet pack enough personalized country soul to sound nothing like a decade-specific cover band’s futile attempt at originality.

Mike and the moonpies cheap silver and solid country gold
Courtesy of Mike and the Moonpies

Elsewhere on the album, Mike and the Moonpies turn up the twang for the lead single and dance floor-filler “You Look Good in Neon,” the Texas-sized stomper “Danger” (featuring Shooter Jennings) and the classic-style ballad “If You Want to Fool Around.” Each keeps the band's classic country bonafides in check without rehashing songs from 2018’s Steak Night at the Prairie Rose.

The group’s best new work, and its strongest homages to the Lone Star State, end the album. The foot-stomper “Fast as Lightning” could’ve suited the catalog of Ray Price or most any other home state crooner, while mirroring the multi-part instrumental charm of something from the minds of Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel. Although “London Homesick Blues” should sound instantly familiar to longtime viewers of Austin City Limits, Gary P. Nunn’s best-known composition gets a 21st century facelift from the Austin-based band, who might sound different, if they existed at all, without Nunn and friends keeping that part of Texas weird in the ‘70s.

Texas music has never been limited to one or two sounds, allowing for the sort of variety heard on Mike and the Moonpies' symphonic take on regional traditions.

Mike and the Moonpies, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold Track List:

1. "Cheap Silver"
2. "You Look Good in Neon"
3. "Danger"
4. "Young in Love"
5. "Miss Fortune"
6. "If You Want a Fool Around"
7. "Fast as Lightning"
8. "London Homesick Blues"

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