Friday, March 01, 2013

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 5

I Listen to a Lot of This Stuff

It would seem I listen to as much of this kind of thing as I do metal. The work of David Eugene Edwards will do that to a man.

Mark Lanegan: Bubblegum (2004)
4 out of 5 stars

Mark Lanegan is apparently a musician of some note. A former member of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age, he's also worked with Kurt Cobain, among others. I've never followed any of that. Instead, I discovered his solo work through Spotify, which appropriately played it for me on Wovenhand radio. Bubblegum opens on a blues song and closes on one that epitomizes my idea of "dark Americana," but along the way it goes far afield. "Methamphetamine Blues" injects some Monster Magnet, as does "Can't Come Down," and Nine Inch Nails shines through in the industrial elements (see "Head"). A lot of it's mellow alt-rock or drug-addled fugue channeled through the voice of a young Tom Waits. It's highly recommended for fans of grunge, dark Americana, or Tom Waits.

16 Horsepower: Olden (2003)
3 out of 5 stars

I've already reviewed nearly everything 16 Horsepower released, but in case you missed it, 16HP were a Colorado folk/country band with a dark bent and intense vocals, who knew how to write a catchy tune. All that praise said, Olden is for completists and otherwise dedicated fans only. It's a retrospective compilation of studio tracks and live recordings from 1993 and 1994; the studio tracks sound like pure live takes and the live tracks are high quality without crowd noise, so the sound is consistent throughout. It has two versions of "American Wheeze," and almost everything on here can be found in a better-produced version elsewhere in their catalog. It also features two short interview snippets, the first explaining that they're not a happy fun-time band and the second one coming off as somewhat self-aggrandizing, but these aren't too distracting. For someone who loves them as much as I do, it's essential, but for everyone else, you can probably pass it up.

Steve Von Till: If I Should Fall to the Field (2002)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Steve Von Till's 2002 If I Should Fall to the Field is not quite as strong as its 2000 predecessor or its 2008 follow-up, but it follows the same format and has several very good tunes. The low-key acoustic droning and bottom-of-the-whiskey-bottle vocals are a great combination. They are at their best when there is a dynamic change, so "To the Field"'s crescendo and the banjo/fiddle of "This River" stand out from the rest of the album. The poorly-executed vocals of "Am I Born to Die?" drag it down, and the spoken-word closer does nothing for me, but I do quite love the rest of it.

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