Austin, Texas band Crooks live for the nights when all you've got is beer. The band exists for the nights when the golden stuff has never tasted better. This isn't at all to say that they exist for the good nights, or the nights when the beer tastes really good and downright refreshing. Such a suggestion would lead one to believe that a celebration was in order and the frosty mug after frosty mug was just plainly hitting the spot. No sir, Crooks exists for the nights when shit couldn't get any worse and bellying up to the bar is the only action worth taking, and at some point in that night, the skies part somewhat, even if the furrowed brow never does. It stays cracked downward in the shape of two fuzzy lightning bolts as the cheeks turn rosier.
The characters that lead singer Josh Mazour creates and consorts with in Crooks songs are the kind that come from a mean streak, from a long-ago time of vigilante justice and lawlessness, who will scrap and brawl in a heartbeat, if they have to - even if they don't have to. They might just get ornery for no good reason and there's nothing anyone can do about it. They'll pull guns. They'll pull knives and they will leave marks should anyone get too close or say the wrong thing at the wrong time. The songs sound as if they've got a little chip on their shoulders and there's no telling when they're going to get nasty, but they never seem to. There's just that threat in the air, as if everything might turn purple and rough any second, should someone breathe on someone else incorrectly.
Mazour leads his band through these gritty, hard scrabble numbers, with a touch of mariachi band, a take on outlaw country and western and with a singing style that partially recalls Gordon Gano singing "Blister In The Sun." When he sings, "Some folks like whiskey/Some folks like pain/Some nights will go down easy/They're all the same," on "One Way To Live," we're left questioning which category we fall into. We finally decide that we'll be the way all of the members of Crooks seem to be - happily straddling that line between the pain and what they wash it all down with.
*Essay originally published February, 2011