No Johnny-come-lately to country music, Gleason has nurtured a love of hard-edged honky-tonk since the '70s, when his dad played in numerous twang-oriented bar bands and would rehearse Merle Haggard and Buck Owens covers in the garage. Carrying the family torch on his new full-length, Gleason croons along with the Wasted Days, a compact roots-rock group featuring guitarist Dave Stark, bassist/co-songwriter Mike Therieau, and drummer John Kent (the latter two played with Gleason in the Loved Ones, a now glamorously defunct mod-revival outfit from the early '90s). Several of his album's soul-tinged hillbilly romps also feature "chicken-picking" guitar duets with Mike Farrell of Persephone's Bees, as well as piano and organ riffs from Red Meat's Michael Montalto and superlative pedal-steel fills by local session vet Joe Goldmark.
Backed by this solid ensemble, Gleason is as hip as he is hick, tipping his thrift-store Stetson to British R&B acts such as the Rolling Stones and the Small Faces and to American Southern rockers like the Allman Brothers, who are normally considered verboten in the canon of indie rock. Throughout Dave Gleason's Wasted Days the musicians perform with the relaxed assurance of savvy players who could care less whether the kids think they're cool -- precisely the right attitude needed to make music that matters.
Gleason tackles the inevitable Parsons comparison head-on with the inclusion of "Funky String Quartet," an unreleased Parsons nugget that Gleason discovered on a friend's tightly guarded bootleg tape. The shambling song anticipates the possible objections of rock fans and hillbilly purists to this style of country fusion, defiantly facing down critics with the withering chorus, "How can you really say what's country music?"
All told, Dave Gleason's Wasted Days encompasses the grittier end of the roots music landscape, sculpting rough-hewn moments of grace alongside good-time jamming -- the perfect counterpoint to the slick countrypolitan and sloppy twangcore that dominate hick music today.