I flew into the Atlanta airport last week, returning
from my cousin’s wedding -- a hectic weekend with my extra large
Catholic family. Lugging suitcases full of dress clothes and
Sunday shoes, I headed to Economy Parking and was relieved to
find my snazzy new Camry waiting for me. I cranked the engine,
and immediately, Dear Everybody greeted me on
the sinfully sweet stereo. I was home. Memories of late nights
at The Star Bar and good rock ‘n roll displaced the sights and
sounds of cranky German relatives. This scenario is probably
familiar to many travelers and music fans, except for one ironic
fact: Scott Carpenter and the Real McCoys are from Buffalo,
NY-- many miles removed from my Southern home.
But this feeling of home is less about geography and more about
attitude. Though they are from Buffalo, Scott Carpenter and
the Real McCoys exemplify the integrity, sincerity, and talent
of the best Atlanta bands. No wonder, then, that they have strong
personal and professional connections to members of the community
and visit the city at least once a year. In fact, I purchased
Dear Everybody during their last show at The Star
Bar in April, a great performance during which the band rocked
so hard, they were covered in sweat after a 45 minute set. It
was the second year in a row they blew through town with a new
CD, making them one of the hardest working and most productive
bands I’ve seen.
Like the band, the album is just plain ol’ good American rock.
I don’t say that derogatively; Dear Everybody
is chock full of twangy guitar and soulful lyrics. The album’s
themes seem to echo my “rock ‘n roll” image of the band, with
songs of late nights and drinking, wasted youth, and fast driving.
The music is at times a cross between Elvis Costello, Tom Petty,
and Meatloaf -- a little mellower than their past work, which
had more of a rockabilly feel. Some of this change can be attributed
to production: while their previous albums were crunchy and
raw (the last one was actually a live album), Dear Everybody
was recorded at Dave Barbe’s studio in Athens and includes several
songs with prominent piano and organ accompaniment, reminding
me at times of classic rock ballads.
Along with Scott Carpenter, Matt Smith writes and sings two
songs: Last Chance Tonight and 78 Soul. His voice
is close to Elvis Costello and his songs reflect that same soulful
spirit. Standout tracks by Carpenter include Kick it Away,
a tight little bangly tune; Noreen, an earnest, crooning
love song; and Charlie, a Meatloaf-like raucous romp.
The title track reminds the listener of old rock ballads, encapsulating
the rocker spirit of Dear Everybody. Perhaps the
most overtly personal song on the album, it reflects the mindset
of many 30-somethings, questioning whether their 20s were wasted
and searching for a way to make their 30s more meaningful.
The title track also reflects the psyche of several indie rockers
I know who “feel their age” in a youthful music culture. In
many ways, I think Scott Carpenter and the Real McCoys is sort
of a musicians’ band, always appreciated by other Atlanta locals
for their hard work, sincerity, and great stage performances.
As a fan, I have been a bit spoiled by these great shows; Dear
Everybody doesn’t quite live up to the live act, seeming
to pale in energy and passion. Regardless, Scott Carpenter and
the Real McCoys continue to sing songs about the road, grind
out heartfelt performances, and produce solid rock ‘n roll.
I will always listen to the album when I need a little dose
of that rock therapy.