First things first: "Trailer Swift," the new CD by Gina and the Cow-Tippin' Playboys, has got the greatest title of any album in recent memory.
Gina Dalmas, lead singer for the Norfolk-based honky tonk country quartet, tells me she liked it so much she tried to convince her bandmates to make it the new name of the group. That didn't fly, so it became the album title, which is just as well because Cow-Tippin' Playboys is too good and too evocative to discard.
As to the album itself, which came out last month, it is one of the best CDs you will hear this year from a local artist. The band's first full-length CD (after 2010's 7-song set "Yeeha, Etc."), "Trailer Swift" is a delirious blast of cheatin', boozin' and high-spirited cow-tippin'.
Understand, it's not strictly autobiographical. When Dalmas disavows romance in the opening track "Love Means Nothing," you must keep in mind that she sings it alongside her husband, bassist Christopher May. And as for the lifestyle depicted in songs such as "Six Days Drunk" and "Bottle of Jack," well ...
"That's really tongue-in-cheek - it's the honky tonk tradition of writing about alcohol," Dalmas says. "I mean, we like to have a good time, but there's no jail time in our future that I can imagine."
(Similarly, there is the issue of her name. Gina is pronounced Jinna, honoring a beloved relative named Virginia. "But I tell people it's for gin and tonic," Dalmas says with a laugh.)
Since forming about five years ago, the band has earned a reputation as one of the area's most fun and energetic live acts. "Trailer Swift" should do nothing but reinforce that. By the time you're halfway through, it's hard to resist joining in on the call-and-response choruses.
Many of these songs are originals by Dalmas and her bandmates, but there are well-chosen covers as well. "Love Means Nothing" is a Robbie Fulks tune, as is "Lies" (which Dalmas turns into a cowpunk rave worthy of early Lone Justice). Perhaps the finest track on the album, "Rent Out My Heart," is by local songwriter Teddy Dean.
"He plays that song live but he's never recorded it," Dalmas says. "I fell in love with it the first time I heard it, and he was nice enough to say yes when we asked if we could play it."
In addition to Dalmas and May, the band features guitarist Greg Wikle and drummer Gabriel Baesen. May takes lead vocals on a few songs, including the raucous "Bottle of Jack" and the somber "Morphine." On the amusing "Sextet" (about a night when there are more people on stage than in the audience), Baesen comes up with some clever drum fills that seem to comment on the sad circumstances.
Dalmas says her father raised her on the classic country of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Merle Haggard. As she got older, she turned toward rock and roll but eventually as an adult got drawn back toward rockabilly and honky tonk.
"Sadly, my dad died when I was 24," Dalmas says. "He would really be thrilled by the music we're making now."
Upcoming shows: Gina and the Cow-Tippin' Playboys will play at Mojo Bones in Norfolk's Ocean View on Saturday night. They are also scheduled to play at the Bacon Festival in Portsmouth on Oct. 10.