If you saw the title Honky Tonk Union but had never heard anything by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, you might deem the band a country-oriented ensemble. It would certainly be a logical assumption. But for the most part, this CD isn't country -- not honky tonk, not pop-country, not alternative country or No Depression. The primary focus of Honky Tonk Union is Americana and roots rock -- sort of John Cougar Mellencamp meets Bruce Springsteen meets Tom Petty, but with more of a southwestern flavor. If those aforementioned songwriters had formed a band in Arizona, California, Nevada, or New Mexico during the '70s, perhaps it would sound something like Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers' engaging debut.
Employing an abundance of down-home, small-town, middle-America imagery, these guys are sometimes stereotypically earthy in their approach to Americana and roots rock -- and on twangy offerings like "West Texas Moon" and "City Girls," they do it without a lot of irony. Yet Honky Tonk Union generally comes across as sincere rather than ironic or clever; if singer/songwriter Clyne and his Arizona-based Peacemakers (an ensemble that also includes former Gin Blossoms guitarist Scott Johnson) end up sounding like a caricature of Americana/roots rock, it isn't because they are trying to lampoon that type of music. Rather, they're approaching the genre from a pop/rock perspective, having been steeped in that style during the musicians' respective years with the Refreshments, Gin Blossoms, and Dead Hot Workshop. Honky Tonk Union may not be twangy enough for unwavering roots rock enthusiasts, and it may be too indebted to cowboy-styled rock for those who prefer the bandmates' former groups. Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers are totally unapologetic about what they do, however, and for those who hold this type of rock & roll in high regard, that is good news.