The legendary Wino has been working with German guitarist/singer Conny Ochs for a while now. It started out a little shaky, as they didn’t seem to know how to use their very different voices in a coherent way. It seemed like the only thing tying them together was a similar vision and perhaps friendship, not complementary qualities. But now, on their third collaboration, they’ve really got this thing figured out.
Freedom Conspiracy is just the kind of dark Americana, singer-songwriter material you’d expect if the album cover is a black-and-white drawing of a guillotine, arranged so that you are looking at it from the same angle as its victim. Now, lay your head down right there, above the basket, and listen.
I’m sure you’re at least somewhat familiar with Wino, the vocalist of U.S. doom pioneers Saint Vitus and grizzled, whiskey-soaked voice of his solo career. If you don’t know his acoustic material, then thing of Scott Kelly’s or Steve Von Till’s and you won’t be too far off the mark.
Less well-known is Conny Ochs, a German who sings beautifully, cleanly, without accent. He is a fucking under-appreciated treasure to the world of music, a timeless artist with an emotional gravity well beyond his years and a musical language that spans over half a century’s worth of rock, country, and folk music. He’s also one of the few acoustic guitar players who can make you completely forget the fact he doesn’t have a drummer. Ochs doesn’t need a drummer. He doesn’t need anybody else. He is a force unto himself.
What these two men have in common is the ability to write acoustic songs that make you feel the feels, and want to sing along with the hooks. Yes, you might expect that such a collaboration between similar giants could either be excellent or just a bit awkward. But three albums in, they are now well past the awkward phase. They know how to switch roles seamlessly, and even harmonize.
This may be the best dark Americana album of the entire year. Don’t pass it up.
The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Exile on Mainstream