Music Reviews

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers: Sidelong – album review

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Sidelong (Bloodshot Records)

CD/Vinyl/DL

Out 28th April, 2017

09/10

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers first release for Bloodshot Records blows the competition out the water.

The problem with genres is stereotyping and those bandwagon jumpers who think they know how to play punk, heavy metal, goth or what have you, and end up turning people off, rather than on. If you’ve never given Country a chance because of that very fact, then you are missing out big time. Especially when it comes to Sarah Shook and the Disarmers who take Country, give it a good kicking and then stand it back on its feet and buy it a whiskey. If you’re expecting yee-haws then you’re gonna get fuck y’alls.

Country music was always the music of the downtrodden; a curious mixture of upbeat rhythms, laments for broken loves, the poetry of despair, finding redemption in alcohol or God (most likely both) and a fuck you if you don’t like it attitude. Sarah Shook and the Disarmers are clearly steeped in their love of country but they don’t treat it with reverence: they live it and breathe it. These are songs for a community of lost souls, misfits, giving praise to misery and one finger to loneliness. When Shook sings about drinking whiskey in the morning to drown her sorrows, she sounds the real deal.

And what a voice she has. Part pure, part ragged. Part punk sneer and part haunting vibrato. If an angel and a demon had an illegitimate daughter it would sing like Sarah Shook. And with a backing band that are deceptively free and easy, making complex rhythms simple, they’re a match made in heaven and hell.

Album opener, Keep The Home Fires Burning, is a song about longing, waiting for her lover to return. The Nail is about a failing relationship, with the great hook of ‘who will be the nail in the coffin’. Heal Me is so fucking good it almost hurts. A song about the despair of everyday hardship, where only whisky can cure ills. An outlaw song rejoicing in badness. Sidelong is a song about those lonely dating bars, that moment leading up to taking a chance, but will it just be another loser? No Name pays homage to the outlaws of the old Wild West. Dwight Yoakam is a haunting, bitter song about losing your lover to someone else. When she sings words about her lover like this they drip with bitterness and stick you right in the gut: “He likes to make love when he’s smoking. And he doesn’t walk around like he’s broken. And he sings just like Dwight Yoakam.” Misery Without Company invokes the optimistic belief that tomorrow will be better, but for tonight there’s just a bottle to empty. Solitary Confinement is a rockabilly lonesome blues song. Nothing Feels Right But Doing Wrong is an ode to the devil and booze. Fuck Up is just a great song that could have spilled over into self-pity but just stands as a way it is song. Make It Up To Momma is humorous and self-effacing. A song about a down and dirty guy who’s killed and wasted everything he ever had in life, but he’s gonna make it up to his mum by getting a momma heart tattoo! Road That Leads To You ends the album off in style with Shook singing about travelling the road the way that she does, with only one thing on her mind.

Too often, when a country’s history and sociology is examined, its music is ignored. To understand America, you have to understand Country and its roots in the pioneer, individualistic spirit. It’s a music where the only redemption is in the next world; in this world redemption can only be found in whisky and brief love affairs.

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers are the best thing to emerge from country music in the last ten years and Sidelong is the best album released, in any genre, so far this year.

Bloodshot Records confirm that the band are already working on the next album, planned for release in 2018. I, for one, can’t wait.

 

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers are on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

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Music Reviews

Mark Lanegan Band: Gargoyle – album review

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Gargoyle (Heavenly Recordings)

CD/Vinyl/DL

Out 28th April, 2017

08/10

Mark Lanegan has rock pedigree oozing out of his pores, having been a founder member of grunge pioneers Screaming Trees and a member of Queens of the Stone Age, his albums are critically acclaimed, yet he remains something of an outsider when it comes to the music buying public. Maybe the outsider tag suits him. He looks the epitome of a rock outlaw; his face grizzled, his stanch cock-sure rebelliousness and his voice sounding like the world weariness of a down at heel grizzly bear. But to those who have discovered him he is a special talent.

This new 10 ten track record features guest appearances from long-time collaborators Josh Homme, Greg Dulli and Duke Garwood. Grotesque is underground Americana with a dark rock vibe that feeds on and into early 80s post-punk and goth. It is the work of not just a polished songwriter, but one who can create a mood effortlessly.

It opens with Deaths Head Tattoo; an electro rhythm overlaid with guitars and that vibrant, deep voice bringing to life a plethora of characters drifting in and out of focus.

Nocturne is full of dark rhythms and scratching, ominous guitars. This is music for a night time drive thru an urban sprawl to the moon drenched badlands. A dark love song to a missing woman, though there are hints of violence in a messy parting, a car wreck of a romance. There is a feeling of everything falling apart as midnight comes around. A long night of longing, building up to a yearning chorus.

Beehive lightens the mood with a great guitar riff that feels like a mix of 60s pop and 90s trance. Sister has a calliope feel of wild woods and dust bowls. There are undertones of threat and a feeling of angst and fatalism.

Emperor is a great song that channels Iggy Pop and races along with a jaunty rhythm reminiscent of the Passenger. The pace softens somewhat with Goodbye to Beauty, a haunting paean to everything good. It reminds me of the late, great Jeffrey Lee Pierce.

First Day of Winter is a poetic elegy for the passing seasons and a looking ahead to a long winter. There is rain against the windows that chills his veins now that winter has begun. It is a beautiful song about age and the cycle of the seasons.

It’s an album that rewards the more you listen to it. If you haven’t experienced the Mark Lanegan Band yet, then Grotesque is as good a place to start as anywhere.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

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Mark Lanegan Band is on Facebook and Twitter.