the denver soundThe "gothic country" genre would be only half as intriguing if it weren't for the competing schools and infected disputes in almost every small matter. However, in this case it's a more fundamental and existential question. The question is: is there a "The Denver Sound"? Typically, a question like this should be possible to answer with a simple yes or no. But, I'm afraid this is not the case. One school (deniers) argues that there's no such thing as a "Denver Sound" (only artists and bands from Denver), while a competing school (believers) argues that there's a typical "Denver Sound". It's time for a declaration of interest. I'm a believer. In my opinion, you have to be both deaf and dumb (stupid not mute) not to recognize the existence of the sound. Of course, the sound isn't just one sound, but instead the term "Denver Sound" refers to an umbrella of quite different sounds. The common attributes are the dark and brooding mood with a strange mix of americana, polka, punk, dark cabaret and vaudeville including some east-european influences. Denver was founded in 1858 as a mining town during the Colorado Gold Rush. Denver experienced a second Golden Age in the late 1980s with The Denver Gentlemen and a cult emerged. Very soon bands like Slim Cessna's Auto Club, 16 Horsepower, Wovenhand, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots and Tarantella followed (all six of them covered in my prestigous article series). A second attribute is the multi-tasking on the verge to work environment offences and incestious conditions. Most musicians in Denver play in at least one band, but often in three bands or more. The names of the musicians shows up everytime and everywhere. You need to be an epidemiologist to keep track of all the constellations and new lineups. Take Slim Cessna's Auto Club for example. Almost every talented musician in Denver have played in the band at some point in a shorter or longer time. All in all, over twenty people have played in the band. Slim Cessna's Auto Club seems to be working as a Temporary Work Agency in the "gothic americana" industry. Musicians tend to go in and out of the band depending on their other commitments. This is not very common in the genre, where leaving a band often is definite and irrevocable. A third attribute is the use of organ, accordion, violin and cello. These instruments also occur outside the Denver scene, but not in the same extent. Denver has undoubtedly had a strong attraction on musicians and have become a creative hub for this kind of weird music. You will find a list with the ten most important Denver bands here (opens in a new window). Sadly enough, only four of the bands on the list are still active and three of them have been around for a long while. What does this say about the regrowth? Is time running out for Denver and is - God forbid - the Golden Age over? There are some new blossoms from the old bough, like Two Tone Wolf Pack, which I maybe will come back to in another context. Personally, I hope Denver will continue to retain its importance and luminosity in the "gothic country" genre. As always, lets hope for the best and plan for the worst.  

 

 

DRR logo 500There are record companies and there are "record companies". Some of them have made a lasting impression and been very influential, like Sun Records founded in 1952 by Sam Phillips. Over the years they released groundbreaking records with very renowned artists. Sun Records is, strangely enough, still active. The "gothic country" counterpart to Sun Records is Devil's Ruin Records (DRR), which was a short lived, but legendary record company. Devil's Ruin Records motto was "Loathsome music for sinners, saints, imps and angels". The label was active between 2008-2010 and released 30 albums of which five were compilations. You can check out the complete DRR catalogue here (opens in a new window). Devil's Ruin Records was based in Leo, Indiana and owner was Joshua Warfel. You can read an interview with him on the reputable site Sepiachord (whose motto is "Music Now for a Past That Never Was"). You will find a link here (opens in a new window). I don't know anything about the business side, contract issues or reimbursement. I just focus on the music. All that glitters is not gold. But almost all. In many articles, I have stated that the provenance of DRR is a mark of quality. The list of artists is exquisite: The Dad Horse Experience, Christian Williams, Pinebox Serenade, Reverend Elvis, Uncle Sinner, OldBoy, The Mountain Apple Epidemic, Black River Brethren among others. I proudly admit that I have found a lot of artists through Devil's Ruin Records. At the moment I have managed to get a hold of 18 of the 30 albums that have been released. Some of the DRR releases, like "Thin & Pale" with The Mountain Apple Epidemic (DRR028), are on the verge of impossible to get a hold of.

But, their claim to fame and what really stand out are the four compilations in their serie "Best of Dark Roots Music". The album titles are inspired by rodents. Rodentia (vol I a double album), Rodentagogue (vol II), Rodenticide (vol III) and Rodentum (vol IV). They are all out of print and very hard to find. I'm very pleased to see them in my cd shelves. The album art is fitting (see below). The art work are designed by Ronaldo Selistre, Gromyko Semper, Eddie Obituary (a.k.a. Joshua Warfel) and Huseyin Ozkan, respectively. The four "Best of Dark Roots Music" compilations makes the list of renowned artists in the genre even longer: Strawfoot, O'Death, Reverend Glasseye, Creech Holler, Tarantella, Antic Clay, Lonesome Wyatt And The Holy Spooks, Sons of Perdition, Slackeye Slim, Those Poor Bastards, Myssouri, Palodine, The Blackthorns, Pushin' Rope, .357 String Band, Highlonesome, Murder By Death among others. If this exquisite series weren't enough there's also a fifth compilation, Compendium, released in 2009, which is also a must have album.

      

 

Devil's Ruin Records really left a mark on the genre and on me. The idea behind Devil's Ruin Records is very close to a dream I have. You can read more here (opens in a new window)  in my blog entry. 

 

 

badomen 350Six years after the release of their critically acclaimed album "A Bitter Harvest" Lonesome Wyatt and Rachel Brooke have got together again to record a new album, "Bad Omen". The album was released on April 21, 2015. The frequently used term "critically acclaimed" is an understatement. "A Bitter Harvest" was praised and embraced by critics and reviewers. And very rightly so, if I may add something. Rachel Brooke and Lonesome Wyatt are both an odd couple and quite an implausible combinationbut at the same time congenial. The collaboration means that Lonesome Wyatt becomes a bit less gloomy and subdued, while Rachel Brooke stays pretty much the same (or maybe just a bit darker). All in all, the result is great. On the album "A Bitter Harvest" they played and singed alternately in beautiful harmonies in sad but beautiful songs. If you - by any chance - have created what is considered to be a critically acclaimed album there’s two scenarios for how the follow up album will be reviewed. The scenarios are equally likely. The first scenario is that the provenance of the first album will spill over to the follow up album and it will be reviewed in a recycled, ruminated and uncritical way, with more focus on the first album than on the follow up album. The second scenario is that the first album will become the yardstick for the follow up album and it will not be evaluted on its own merits, but only in respect to the first album in all possible aspects. The reviews will almost certain become overcritical and foreseeable and, of course, quite boring. There's however a middle way - the swedish middle way - of how to approach this since we like to think of ourselves as solution oriented pragmatists. This means that reviewing a follow up album is very much like driving a car. Every third second you should look in the rear-view mirror (not more, at least in Sweden), but always keep your main focus ahead of you. I will stick to this working method in this review of "Bad Omen". The album is approximately 42 minutes long and contains twelve songs of which Rachel Brooke has written five songs. You can buy the album in the format of your choice, just click on one of the icons (bottom left). 

 

badomen rabI will now walk you through the whole album. The album starts off with ”Not Over You” which seems to deal with a person who realizes that love has gone, but have no plans of letting the object for love go away. The song is framed by scattered guitar and vocals. The vocals are almost chanting. "Not over you. Not over you. I'm not over you." Lonesome Wyatt whispers some cues here and there to underline the message. Then pounding drums is introduced to further emphasize the seriousness. The song breathes pure obsession. It gets worse. "I never let. I never let you go". ”Not Over You” is one of the best songs on the album. The second song is "Death Watch Blues" and is written by Rachel Brooke. The song has a completely different mood with a very deep blues, hard groove, noisy piano, feedback guitars and shared distorted vocals. "I feel death coming." It's a good and catchy song. The third song "Ice Cold Betrayal" has all the desirable attributes of Lonesome Wyatt. This song is also a very good example of the synergy effects in their musical partnership. Rachel Brooke and Lonesome Wyatt have different vocal range and abilities. The vocals on the song are seamlessly intertwined and the result is astonishing. "Ice cold betrayal. I don't even care". The song is one of the highlights on the album. The fourth song "If the Beasts Should Hunt Us" is without any doubt the best song on the album. It's a rather simple song when it comes to its structure. The vocals of Rachel Brooke is crystal clear and cuts like warm knife through butter. "My shoes are worn down. I can feel the ground. Let me walk with you tonight...When summer comes again. Don't know where I'll be then. Let me walk with you tonight....Our steps the only sound. Let me walk with you tonight". Only a person with a grave emotional disorder is untouched by this. The exceptional vocals of Rachel Brooke is perfectly counterbalanced by Lonesome Wyatt's dark, rough and unmistakable voice. The shared vocal responsibilities lifts this song to top notch. The fifth song "Miles and Miles" is written by Rachel Brooke and is one of the best songs on the album. The song has an elevated beginning with razor sharp but heartfelt vocals from Rachel Brooke. The vocals of Lonesome Wyatt changes the mood and atmospere to more prosaic levels. There's sparse but enough instrumentation in the song. The sixth song "Dance With Me" is also written by Rachel Brooke. This song has a more traditional country approach with all its attributes. Lonesome Wyatt contributes effectively on the song and at the end of the song he takes it in a more weird direction with some singing, humming and grunting.     

 

badomen lw

The seventh song "When You Are Young" is a marching sing-a-long about undemanding childhood. "When you are young. You think your happiness can last. You will never waste your joy for future. And desperate longing for the past." The song is nicely backed by some scattered banjo playing and distinct bass lines. "When you are young. Everyone else is old." The song belongs to the highlights on the albumLonesome Wyatt seems to think  more and more of physical and spiritual decay lately. The second song on Those Poor Bastards' latest album Vicious Losers is "Getting Old", almost overly hard played with ultra-distorted guitars and roaring vocals "Why is my skin melting like wax, Why is my hair so grey and thin, You're getting old buddy, Noooooo!". The eight song "This Terrible Mess" is a modern cautionary tale. "As I am. You can't be. Don't ever follow me". The accompaniment is simple with some bass picking, and - with gothic country standards - quite funky. The ninth song "Evil One" makes you think of the soundtrack to "American Graffiti" when it comes to style. Except for the song title, that is. The tenth song "Don't Leave Me" is written by Rachel Brooke and is one of the best songs on the album. Lonesome Wyatt and Rachel Brooke sings the verses alternately. "Is it selfish but to ask. Just how long your love will last. The brightest star still fades at dawn." The eleventh song "In Flames" puzzles me. I can't decide if the song is a filler on the album or if the song is an ingenius amalgam of glam rock from the 1970s and gothic country. Well, I stick to the latin phrase "in dubio pro reo". The twelfth and last song on the album "What Happens to Our Love?" is written by Rachel Brooke. The song is untypical of Lonesome Wyatt and Rachel Brooke since it's a straightforward and traditional country song. On the other hand, Lonesome Wyatt and Rachel Brooke don't need a bombastic last song or any overacting gothic showmanship to make their point. When "Bad Omen" was released they wrote "We sure do appreciate it and hope the album makes you feel terrible and sad." What more can I say than: Yes, I feel terrible and sad. 

I'm sceptical to collaborations and album splits, but I must confess that this album convinced me that it can work. Actually, it can work very well. At least sometimes, with the right conditions and at the appropriate juncture, in due course and in the fullness of time. And finally, the rear-view mirror question: how does "Bad Omen" stand the test of comparison with "A Bitter Harvest"? Very well, I think. However, the question if "Bad Omen" is better than "A Bitter Harvest" is open to interpretation and is moreover almost a metaphysical question. What I can say is that "Bad Omen" is a must have album for everyone interested in Lonesome Wyatt or Rachel Brooke in general and for everyone interested in Lonesome Wyatt and Rachel Brooke in particular.

    

If you click on the icons below they will open in a new window, from left to right: Lonesome Wyatt's homepage, Lonesome Wyatt's Facebook page, Rachel Brooke's homepage, Rachel Brooke's Facebook page.

 

Slackeye Slim 3 home logo3 facebook-icon

Slackeye Slim 3 home logo3

facebook-icon 

 

 

PickupthesteamA popular and hard-fought misconception among some long-range tourists is that there are polar bears walking around on the streets of Stockholm, Sweden. You can laugh inwardly at it, but it’s not entirely far-fetched since it’s almost total winter when it comes to the swedish music scene. We find ourselves remotely located (58º 35′ N 16º 11′ E) caught between horrible Nashville cover nights (see my blog post here) and countless indie bands who are spending more time on their appearance than on their epigone music. The booking agencies are, as in all other places, focused on music for the masses. However, there some exceptions. Club Nuggets (a group of music enthusiasts, see link here) have arranged concerts with artists like Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band, Scott H. Biram, Joe Buck Yorself among others. The interest for this kind of music seems to increase in Sweden. A new festival PICK UP THE STEAM (swedish equivalent to Muddy Roots Music Festival) will premiere on June 13 2015 at an old railway area. The choice of venue is very symbolic (a small wedge under two bridges between the south of the inner city and a popular green belt). The festival will be arranged by Club Nuggets in cooperation with Rootsy Live, CGBG and Trädgård på Spåret (translates Garden on the Track, a nonprofit organization with the aim to convert a forgotten track area to a green and vibrant part of the city). Scott H. Biram, The Goddamn Gallows, Possessed by Paul James and Urban Pioneers among others will be playing. There will be no polar bears attending.

 

FossilsThe collaborative split album "Fossils" by Sons of Perdition and Jaran Hereid was released today. Regular visitors of the website knows that Sons of Perdition belongs to the household gods, but I haven't come across Jaran Hereid or his band Yuma Sun before, which is quite an achievement since they are from Norway. The background for the collaborative split album is that Jaran Hereid asked Zebulon Whatley to write the lyrics and sing on the song "Save Our Souls" for Yuma Sun's album "Hell" which was released in 2014. They considered it a successful collaboration and the seed for a split album was hereby planted. The title  "Fossils" was chosen, after some difficulties, to express the traces that people leave in their wake. The album cover is very fitting. The photo was taken by either Zebulon Whatley or bassist Simon Broke (it's not clear who held the camera at the time) on a roadtrip through southwest of United States. The press release hit the nail on the head: "Through eleven songs the album relays somber tales of broken people, broken towns and broken limps." Zebulon Whatley and Jaran Hereid contribute to some of each others songs on the album. I have to confess that my interest lies in the question where on the evolution line Sons of Perdition are placed today. I don't really know what to expect after the Dissolution Trilogy was completed (The Kingdom is on Fire, Psalms for the Spiritually Dead and Trinity). After the completion of the trilogy, Sons of Perdition have expanded into a four-piece band and frontfigure Zebulon Whatley has declared that he seeks new challenges in his songwriting. The songs on the album are the first within the new parameters. The press release states that the new Sons of Perdition marks a departure from their previous work both aesthetically and thematically. I also have to confess that I'm sceptical to split albums. In my opinion, they tend to be either unfocused or watered-down to the lowest common denominator. Furthermore, in this case I'm concerned that a collaborative split album will lead to a blurred impression of Sons of Perdition and where they stand today. However, this split album works extremely well and my concerns about discernibility are unfounded. In my opinion, there's three explanations. First, the historical background of the collaboration. Second, a common aim and coherent theme for the album. Third, a clear division of labour. The division of labour is as follows: Sons of Perdition perform on four songs. Zebulon Whatley and Jaran Hereid perform together on four songs. Jaran Hereid perform solo on two songs. Sons of Perdition perform together with Jaran Hereid on the last song. The album "Fossils" is only available digitally. You can buy it in the format of your choice (even lossless) at Bandcamp, just click on the icon (bottom left). It also available digitally anywhere people buy compressed music.

 

sop expandedI will now walk you through the whole album. The album starts off with ”Under the Snow” with Jaran Hereid and Zebulon Whatley. The beginning of the song actually makes me think of a Wednesday Addams piano session, but then the song turns into a darker mood with a firm structure. The creative process is innovative. Jaran Hereid wrote the lyrics for the first verse, while Zebulon Whatley wrote the lyrics for the second verse. They share the vocal responsibilities on the song in the same way. The refrain is stunning: "Our halo won't glow won't shine / Our halo won't glow". The song is a splendid introduction to the album and also a good example of how dense and intervowen this collaborative split album is compared to similar albums. The first song is also one of the best songs on the album. The second song is "The Room" with Jaran Hereid (lyrics, vocals and guitar) and Zebulon Whatley (backing vocals). It's a good song with acoustic guitar and lingering choirs. The songs ends with: ”In whispers he says / I will let you live, but no one else”. The third song "Toyah" is performed by Sons of Perdition. The song has a slow tempo and an elevated approach. The song is about Toyah, Texas (an abandoned ghost town in western Texas). Toyah was inhabited as recently as in 2000. Now it's consumed by the desert around it. The imagery is poetic and vivid: "Toyah. Alone in all creation, the colossus’ devastation from being forgot in the desert, left to rot." I'm relieved since the song got all the important and desirable trademarks of Sons of Perdition. The song is one of the highlights on the album. The fourth song "She" is written and performed by Jaran Hereid. This is a good and deeply emotional song. The fifth song "The Silence and the Clover" is performed by Sons of Perdition. The song is dreamy with innovative drumming with a lot of hanging toms and trembling cymbals. The song ends: "The lover lies alone and with time, flesh proffers bone. You’ll find no note from this lover, nor from the absent other. Go elsewhere with your questions. Here you’ll find no facile lessons." The sixth song on the album is "Laurie", written and performed by Jaran Hereid. It's, by any standards, a mellow tune with depressing lyrics with guitar, vocals and and a low-intense muffled background sound.      

 

Fossils JH

The seventh song "My Blood in These Hills" with Sons of Perdition is by far the best song on the album. This is pure quality. The song is overflowing with gifted songwriting and well written lyrics. This song is built up with beautiful harmonium (Lacy Rose), marching snare drum (Alex Hardie) and distinct double bass (Simon Broke). The icing on the cake is the beautiful backing vocals by Lacy Rose. The lyrics are brilliant: "The Wendigo teeth of insatiable sawblades turning forests into ditches. The ghosts of ancestors call from the land." The eight song "Black Wings" with Jaran Hereid (lyrics, vocals, guitars, bass) and Zebulon Whatley (slide guitar) is a very catchy sing-a-long song about two suicides. The self-murderers also happen to be named John and June (if these first names ring any bells). You find yourself singing along cheerfully in "called his Landlord saying, they'll find me on the floor" and in "closed her eyes and floated away into nothingness". The ninth song "Tombstone" is performed by Sons of Perdition. "Tombstone" is the sister song to "Toyah" and based loosely on Tombstone, Arizona. This town was, in contrast to Toyah, protected against decay. Tombstone was artificially embalmed and turned into a tacky tourist trap. The song begins: "A sprawling old corpse all tangled in scrub mummified under the molten gold sun that vomits harsh light, a dime museum display. There isn’t any dignity left in this grave lying in the sun." Zebulon Whatley's intention with the sister songs was to contrasting two of the ways a town is left to die, or rather what happens to a town after its death. The tenth song "Josephine" with Jaran Hereid (lyrics, vocals, guitars, violin, percussion, bass) and Zebulon Whatley (slide guitar). This is the best song by Jaran Hereid on the album. The music and lyrics interact perfectly. The songs begins: "Flee Josephine / They have your prints Josephine / Be my only queen / I`ll keep you safe, oh Josephine"The elventh and last song "The Untouched Stone" is a collaboration between Sons of Perdition and Jaran Hereid (violin). The song not only closes the album, but it also marks the end of this musical collaboration for the time being. I probably (as always) read to much into it and over-interpret the symbolism, but the first song is a split between Jaran Hereid and Zebulon Whatley, while the last song is a split between Jaran Hereid and Sons of Perdition. The soundscape is hazy, dreamy and evasive. Here are the lyrics in its entirity: "In the sands of Arizona lies a grave so all alone. Whether miner or cowboy fey, that blank red stone won’t say. Someone lived and then they died. Their body planted where it now lies. Their blood drank by thirsty soil. Their brittle bones all bleached and boiled. Once their name was said aloud, but they took it with them into their shroud that cradles bones in folds of cotton, like a memory totally forgotten. And one day soon, just like them, time will stop these tired limbs. My name like my body to dust and all that was me will be lost."

And finally, the overall assessment: The press release stated that the new Sons of Perdition marks a departure from their previous work both aesthetically and thematically. In my opinion, this departure doesn't consist of any sharp turn musically. It's just a natural progression from "Trinity”. The change in musical style could be dimly seen already then. The differences are greater when it comes to the lyrical content. Zebulon Whatley is bored with religious topics and also felt he has exhausted the subject. The lyrics are still dark, but not as pitch-black or macabre as before. I asked Zebulon Whatley a year ago about the musical direction, sound, lyrical themes and any forthcoming album. He replied: It's different. The lyrics are more abstract, the vocals a bit more naturalistic. I think the whole thing sounds looser than the previous albums. The addition of drums is a big change. It took me a bit to get used to drums in the context of my songs, but they’re definitely better for it. And I’m excited to be working with the band. They’re great people and phenomenal musicians. That higher level of musicianship definitely shows up in the recordings. As for the theme, my songs are about the traces that people leave in their absence.” In my opinion, Sons of Perdition has evolved in this direction. My concerns about album splits in general and about discernibility in particular are unfounded. This collaborative split works almost seamlessly. There's a considerable distance between Bergen in Norway and Austin, Texas. But this doesn't seem to have constituted a major obstacle in making the album. In addition, the songs on the album are positioned in a perfect order. A lot of thought seems to have been put into this difficult art. I'm pleasantly surprised by the new Sons of Perdition and the new album. This split album will not disappoint anyone who are the least interested in Sons of Perdition and also provides an interesting introduction to the music of Jaran Hereid (who will not disappoint you either). My only complaint is the album length. "Fossils" is 40 minutes long. "Trinity" was 72 minutes long, which on the other hand is pretty extreme for an album. Anyway, by this I just want to say that I'm looking forward to hear more music from Sons of Perdition. And finally, in my opinion Sons of Perdition is perfectly calibrated and positioned on their evolution line which goes to show that the right direction is always forward. 

    

If you click on the icons below they will open in a new window, from left to right: Sons of Perdition's Bandcamp page, Sons of Perdition's Facebook page", Sons of Perdition's homepage and press kit for "Fossils".

 

Bandcamp logo facebook-icon

Slackeye Slim 3 home logo3

Slackeyeslim 3 presskit 

 

 

All Blog Posts