The V-Roys

By Kevin Gibson

In their matching black suits, coats buttoned to the top, the clean-shaven V-Roys almost looked like a Beatles tribute act on Bluegrass Brewing Company's small stage. But the twang in Scott Miller's voice and the garage-band edge with which this Knoxville quartet attacked its set May 16 suggested a group of guys who, if a bar brawl broke out, would join in the fun.

I first saw these guys last year at that very same venue and my reaction then was to kick myself for not having checked them out sooner. Anyone who has the band's first album, "Just Add Ice," but who hasn't yet seen the live show doesn't know the V-Roys as well as they think they do. Certainly, the CD smokes, but the live gig tells a truer story.

Weaving their way through "Ice" faves and tunes from the forthcoming "All About Town," there was hardly time to catch a breath. A slightly more electric version of the first album's closer, "Cold Beer Hello" (an ode to their one true love: brew), leaned the machine toward the country side of the V-Roys persona, while a cover of the L.A.'s power-pop classic "There She Goes" swayed the room back to the rock side. Their perfect blending of those two musical styles produces a sound one might expect if '80s popsters the Romantics suddenly were possessed by the ghost of Hank Williams. Everything but spinning heads.

Oh, and the way these guys can write hooks. Uncanny. This is what sets this band apart from the scores of other power-pop and country-fried rock acts: songwriting. Not only do the tunes stick to your brain like gum to your shoe, but they are honest and heartfelt. (Check out the sizzling ballad "Lie I Believe" on the first album -- you'll see what I mean.) At times, I swear that only Lennon and McCartney did it better.

The only bad news of the night was the announcement that "All About Town," produced by Steve Earle and originally scheduled for a June release, has been pushed back until August.

"It's something with the label," guitarist/sometime vocalist Mike Harrison said while handing out stickers to fans after the show. "It isn't us."

Drats. Oh well, if boredom brought on by the two-month delay is what led the V-Roys back to Louisville after all this time, remind me to call Warner Bros. and thank them for the holdup. I waited this long for them to return to the River City, so I guess I can wait a couple extra months for the new album.

Besides, I'm still not tired of the first one yet.