Sunday, November 26, 2023

Two Guns - Balls Out (1979 us, excellent southern rock, 2009 edition)

The Two Guns album Balls Out is the first and last album of a talented band that were unfortunately getting signed when Southern Rock made its last stand. Released by Capricorn Records, the label was three releases away from getting bankrupt. How's that for a healthy future? Well, obviously, these guys never had much of a chance and this is where it ended to the public eye.

This record is a true masterpiece of Southern rock and was released at a time when the genre was already in agony. It overshadows everything that was produced at that time - the year was 1979 - by the 'first generation' of Southern rock, be it the ABB, the Henry Paul Band or .38 Special. The tragedy of Two Guns' failure and their disappearance into the endless sea of oblivion lay not only in the 'death throes' of the genre, but above all in the bankruptcy of Capricorn Records. A number of other bands were unable to cope with the collapse of this stroke of luck for Southern Rock - just think of Stillwater.
Like the latter, Two Guns were absorbed into a black hole and today hardly anything is known about the careers of the four band members. 

The only thing you can find out about Bob Williams on the internet is from the authoritative mouth of his widow Joni Ann. Bob died on May 21, 1999, at the age of forty-four, as a result of a motorcycle accident near Kansas City. Previously, he had to end his musical career after losing a fingertip in an accident at work. After the four-piece from Lawton, Oklahoma, split up in 1980, he played for Chubby Checker and founded his own band under the pseudonym Greg Hockett.

According to Joni Williams, most of the songs on "Balls Out" were written by singer and bassist Mike Sconce - the rest by second shouter Kenny Baker. It is no longer possible to find out which of the two wrote and sang which songs.

The opening "Hard Times" sounds like a jammy number from the Charlie Daniels Band, and not just because of the 'shimmering' Hammond. The work of the two guitarists is outstanding, as they seem to float over a very 'fuzzy' carpet of sound. The chorus sounds very clear  Point Blank, who had their heydays back then. This is a number that could easily have been twice as long. What follows is a crisp Southern Boogie in which the singer (which of the two was it?) knows how to shine.

"Slippin' Into The Night" would have been the natural single release that never happened. The song is hugely jazzed up by the background choirs and the razor-sharp horns of the Muscle Shoals Horns. A wonderful honkytonk piano by Hornsby gives the whole thing the finishing touch. The double leads and the walking bass provide the highlights in "Judgment Plea", a driving blues'n'boogie. “The Daltons” rocks smoothly and fluidly in the country style of the Outlaws. Here the double leads sparkle again, making it a real joy.

It's a shame that Two Guns has been so forgotten. They would undoubtedly have had the potential to valiantly hold up the Southern Cross after Skynyrd's tragic plane crash. Instead, the remaining bands hammered one nail after another into the final resting place of Southern rock through inconsequential LPs. At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, it wasn't even remotely possible to imagine that he would be resurrected in the new century (and definitely not as a zombie).

A simple yet cheerful rocker warms the hearts of listeners with “Seems Like Thunder”. Once again the choirs and the casually strumming piano provide the highlights. "Look In Your Eyes" is initially (at the beginning of the verse) somewhat reminiscent of Skynyrd's "Every Mothers Son" and then escalates into a grooving jam-rocker that sounds like the finest CDB moments - but the same applies here again: doubly so that long would have been perfect! With "There's A Battle Goin' On", a wonderful half-ballad closes a perfect record - but the obligatory guitar battle is ended by a final chorus.
by Steve Braun, 19.12.2011
1. Hard Time (Kenny Barker) - 5:05
2. I Just Dropped On By To Tell You (Mike Sconce) - 3:51
3. Slippin' Into The Night (Randy Richards) - 2:57
4. Judgement Plea (Mike Sconce) - 5:58
5. The Daltons (Kenny Barker) - 5:28
6. Seems Like Thunder (Mike Sconce) - 3:50
7. Look In Your Eyes (Kenny Barker) - 4:04
8. There's A Battle Goin' On (Mike Sconce) - 4:52

Two Guns
*Kenny Barker - Guitar, Lead Vocals
*Bob Williams - Guitar, Vocals
*Mike Sconce - Bass, Lead Vocals
*Pat Sconce - Drums
*Paul Hornsby - Keyboards
*Dodie Petit - Background Vocals
*Muscle Shoals Horns - Horns