The Smoking Flowers – 2 Guns

Bandaloop Music

Bandaloop Music

Razz me all you want about this being an album review and the fact that the backstory shouldn’t have anything to do with the music and all that – I don’t care. The ring-tailed facts of the matter are as follows: I’m a sucker for a good love story; I’m an admirer of folks with true grit; and the Smoking Flowers’ new 2 Guns album is a hell of a piece of work, regardless of the backstory. And that’s that. But before we talk about the tunes …

East Nashvillians Kim and Scott Collins had been married for twelve years when they put the songs on 2 Guns to tape. Besides their signature sometimes-harmony-sometimes-just-letting-it-go vocals, Kim plays accordion, harmonica, and percussion; Scott is a downright cool and nasty guitar picker. Chris Autry covers the bass chores on the album with a big ol’ palette of low-end womp; Marshall Richardson provides the album’s multi-jointed drum backbone (Nick Milliner covers the kit for one track); and Todd Moore and Micah Hulsher split the keyboard chores over the album’s 13 tunes. The frosting on the cake was having Adam Landry on hand to do double duty as producer (you may know him as the studio ringmaster for Deer Tick, Middle Brother and Diamond Rugs) and guitar foil for Scott Collins. The Smoking Flowers pulled off a true in-the-moment hit and run, blistering through the recording of 2 Guns in a four-day stretch. Often beautifully ragged; sometimes beautifully haunting; many times beautifully goofy-grinned and/or playful, pleading, and pledging – but always beautiful – the album went into the can a punkish alt-country/rock/whatever-you-need-it-to-be masterpiece, mixed and ready to rumble by the spring of 2012.

And then Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer and every ounce of thought, attention, and love the couple could muster was put into dealing with that. 2 Guns was shelved.

The decision was made to forgo chemo, radiation, or hormones – Kim chose to go a totally holistic route in tackling her disease head-on. A year down the road, the cancer was deemed to be in remission; the couple took a deep breath; and they refocused their energies on the brilliant album they’d recorded, ready to take the lid off the thing and get out on the road behind it.

The temptation is there to compare Kim and Scott Collins to a number of classic couples: June and Johnny; Emmylou and Gram; hell, the White Stripes, I suppose – just to get that one on the table and out of the way. The fact of the matter is, anytime you try to stick a one-size-fits-all label on 2 Guns, it doesn’t adhere – there’s always a clarifier that makes sure to mention the punkish side of the twang; the grit in the rosewater; the fact that the Nudie suit has both knees ripped out and grease all down the front of it from rebuilding the carburetor on a beat-up old convertible Eldorado.

Scott and Kim Collins

Scott and Kim Collins

Start 2 Guns a’spinning and you’re going to hear all sorts of things in there – familiar things that you’ve never heard before. On one end, the album-opening “Spark & Fire” rumbles in like an upbeat cousin to Nirvana’s “All Apologies” with Autry’s bass leading the way – Kurt Cobain’s ratty sweater traded for a CBGB t-shirt and a bolo tie. And on the far end, “66” takes things home, roaring down the road with the tailfins going wide on the corners like a hot-rodded morphing of the Stones’ “Dead Flowers” and Don Williams’ “Tulsa Time”. (Dig them greasy-as-hell slide geetars!)

Don’t go away – there’s more! Click HERE to read the conclusion of my Smoking Flowers review on Jambands.com

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