There's a Bad Moon on the RiseThis time around, I check out a late release from a standard, a proto-dark Americana masterpiece, and something I discovered completely by random chance.
Slim Cessna's Auto Club: Cipher (2008)
3.5 out of 5 stars
Slim Cessna's Auto Club are the group that began the Denver sound, and even the relatively recent Cipher displays all the hallmarks of it: An allegiance to country, rock, punk, metal, and folk music all in various measures. Where it differs from 16 Horsepower is that it's not as consistently dark. Sure, there are apocalyptic pieces here ("Jesus Is in My Body - My Body Has Let Me Down") but there's also quite a lot of upbeat material. The arc of the record overall seems to center on the concept of human failings and a struggle of faith. But cuts like "Ladies in the Know" will broaden the appeal, while simultaneously making it less powerful to those of us who want it dark all the time.
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Green River (1969)
4.5 out of 5 stars
Hearing 16 Horsepower cover "Bad Moon Rising" got me to thinking: Dark Americana has roots in the roots rock of the late 60's. There is no more iconic roots rock band than CCR, or more quintessential roots rock album than Green River. The blues, folk, and country influences blended with rock and roll are essentially the same formula as emerged in the Denver scene in the 90's, with only slightly different emphasis. The only problem is that, as with most great albums of the time, the filler songs are almost painfully obvious.
Christian Williams: Built with Bones (2007)
3.5 out of 5 stars
Christian Williams offers up a ridiculous number of releases on Bandcamp for whatever price you like. On the one side, some of it is really experimental, and on the other side, there's music like Built with Bones. This release is Van Zandt-like folk/country, understated, with the focus clearly on the storyteller. Which is pretty damn cool when he does a murder ballad like "Red," but great through the rest of the release as well.