Turn It Down: Loud dispatches from Lansing’s music scene

Life Changing Albums: Jeffery Gower on ‘Hillbilly Deluxe’ LP by Dwight Yoakam

The Stick Arounds’ guitarist-vocalist dishes on a crucial country album


With a shared appreciation for classic power-pop bands like Elvis Costello, Big Star, Sloan and Teenage Fanclub, the members of The Stick Arounds have issued three full-length albums and a handful of hook-filled singles since its genesis a decade ago. 

On each release, the band sonically explores various other catchy guitar-driven sounds, think of The Byrds or The Knack. Back in 2019, the prolific outfit released one brand new single for each month of the year — each soaked with dynamic vocal harmonies and pounding backbeats. Then, in April of this year, the band unveiled its latest collection of tracks, the “Waiting for the Click” EP, a Phonophore Records and GTG Records co-release. 

The band’s guitarist and vocalist, Jeffery Gower, recently dished on an album that helped shaped him: Dwight Yoakam’s 1987 “Hillbilly Deluxe” LP. Issued by Reprise Records, Gower found the wistful, bittersweet “Bakersfield Sound”-style country record soon after its release — when he was just 18 years old. Here’s what Gower recalls about that crucial discovery. 

What led you to this amazing Dwight LP?

The song “Little Ways” was a radio hit at the time. My dad always had the radio on in the garage or the truck, so I heard it frequently. “Guitars, Cadillacs” was an earlier hit, but didn’t see as much radio play from what I recall.

Were you a fan right away, or was it a grower album?

It had an immediate impact on me. I mean, I was used to listening to country all the time, and I enjoyed it most of the time, but it was not something I typically did around my friends. And I rarely talked about music with my dad until this record came out. Of course, he immediately compared it to Buck Owens, which is the correct conclusion, though I wasn’t quite into Buck at that time.

What aspects of the album touch you the most and why?

 It’s Dwight Yoakam, so the vocals are top-notch. He has such a pure, clean and natural voice. His depth of control is otherworldly. It sure doesn’t hurt to have Pete Anderson as your guitar-slinger, one of the greats with a Telecaster. But I’m a song guy. Writing and arranging are what I look for first, and Dwight does these with talent equal to his vocals.

How would you describe this album to someone who has never heard it before?

This album has obvious traditional country sounds within, chord structure, stories, vocals, fiddle, but the production and playing were definitely modern at the time. Country had better production in the ’80s than rock and pop, so I feel this album has more staying power for long-term listening. It doesn’t sound as dated. But I digress. Absolute torch-and-twang with a beer chaser.

In what ways has this album directly affected your life, or musical style?

In my teens, I was a rocker. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, R.E.M., The Cult, Metallica, and all that. Country was my dad’s music, and I enjoyed it, but again, I didn’t listen to it outside of home. “Hillbilly Deluxe” made me realize that country could also be cool and sexy. It shaped how I approached listening to country albums afterward. It definitely helped when it came time for me to start writing my own country songs. Even now when writing I think to myself, “Is this how Dwight would do it?”

Looking back, do you perceive the record, or Dwight himself, any differently these days?

I think Dwight is an artist who has retained his talent career-long. While some of the newer albums lack the energy and “cool factor” of the earlier stuff, the songs are still great. “Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room” (1988) is where he really became cemented as a writer/arranger for me. Then, 1993’s “This Time” might just be the greatest country album of all time, and that’s where I’d recommend the uninitiated start. I love his late ’90s stuff, like “A Long Way Home” (1998) a whole bunch, as well. Also, he’s also a hell of an actor. 

As for your own music, what have you been concentrating on these days?

I have several irons in the fire. My long-time band, The Stick Arounds, is always writing and recording. We’ve had a busy autumn with live shows in and out of state. I’m working on a country album with Isaac Vander Schuur. That project was interrupted by the pandemic and I’m slow getting back to it, but it’s going to be great and will feature some Lansing heavy-hitters playing with me. Very recently I’ve been writing new material in the alt-country vein and talking with some friends about a new band. Pretty ambitious for an aging hack! 

Next show:

The Stick Arounds
Horrock’s Beer Garden
7420 W Saginaw Hwy, Lansing
5 p.m.-9 p.m.

Support City Pulse  -  Donate Today!


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Connect with us