Guadalcanal Diary: Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man (1984)
You get the picture pretty quickly from the opening track, "Trail of Tears," a catchy mid-tempo rocker with a lovely, melodic chorus and just a touch of southern twang. The album trades off between more upbeat tunes verging on cowpunk ("Ghost On The Road," "Watusi Rodeo") and pretty, jangly ballads ("Sleepers Awake" -- a quiet piece which would have fit in nicely with R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction the following year -- and the spooky instrumental title track), not to mention the charming, middle-of-the-road jangle pop track "Heathen Rage." The album closes with an earnest, live, shout-along take on campfire song "Kumbayah," with a serious Pixies-styled (pre-Pixies) loud-quiet-loud dynamic; it's surprisingly awesome.
1985's Jamboree followed in a similar vein, while 1987's 2x4 amped up the volume a notch with some compelling rockers (overall, it may be their most consistently solid album). I'm less partial to their final album, 1989's Flip-Flop, which lost some of the melodic touches of prior work, though it does include the wonderful pop single "Almost Saturday." (Vocalist Murray Attaway released a really fine solo album in 1993 called In Thrall; he also had an unreleased follow-up called Delirium which is worth tracking down online.) Sadly, Attaway's longtime bandmate Jeff Walls -- they had periodically regrouped for live shows -- passed away earlier this year.
Here's a clip of "Ghost On The Road" from some obscure (and god-awful-looking) movie I've never heard of but am delighted to know exists: