July 02--Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels are a rock band trying hard to make honest country music.
It's hard to believe that when you see their rhinestone suits and exaggerated country swagger, but it's true. The Denver group really does love the greats like Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and yes, even Elvis to an extent. It's just that they went through a little rock and roll phase before coming back to the sawdust and hardwood floors of old-school country.
Prestwood, the group's front man and ringleader, said he was always aware of country music. How could he not, growing up in Alabama? It was always on the radio or television, and he comes from a long line of pedal steel guitar players. But the music of Garth Brooks didn't resonate for him. Nor did the fans.
"Let's just say the guys in high school with the pickup trucks who listened to that stuff didn't get along with me and I didn't really get along with them," Prestwood said. "It wasn't until I got into Gram Parsons that I really started to respect that genre and come back to it."
Prestwood said after a relatively successful stint with the pop punk group Hot Rod Circuit, he was looking to re-connect with country music, especially after discovering Parson's International Submarine Band. With a little work, he managed to form what would become the Burning Angels, actually playing and recording with some of the folks Parson's worked with.
"The joke was sort of on me though, because I had started it to play pedal steel guitar, but I kept finding great people to play with and I was stuck singing with the regular guitar," he said.
Prestwood's music is unabashedly influenced by Parsons and a desire to go what he calls "full Nashville country bumpkin" when he plays. He means that with all sincerity, despite how it sounds. He really does love the music and there is little irony in the sound, just raw passion, pedal steel guitar and a few songs about drinks and women. It may have a sort of indie or rock slant, but Prestwood just can't help that.
"That's what I always liked about the Flying Burrito Brothers. They were a rock band trying as hard as they could to be an honest country act," he said. "I really identify with that."
In a further homage to classic country, the entire band wears bedazzled Nudie suits, etched with fiery crosses, pot leaves and dice. In fact, the suits were created by Manuel Couture, who has fashioned suits for Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jack White and, of course, Parsons.
Prestwood said Couture invited his band for fittings after watching them perform. He also offered his house in Nashville, stuffed full of memorabilia and iconic country images, as a recording space for the band's next album, "Honky Tonk Bastard World." That album, featuring all new original songs, will be out in the fall.
"It's a country album, but then again I don't know what you call country music these days anyway. Seems like everyone has a different opinion on that," he said. "I have heard some of the stuff we make called Ameripolitan. I guess I kind of like that."
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