Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 2

Acoustic Guitars Can Be Brutal

Do you want some more of that dark Americana? Of course you do.

16 Horsepower: Secret South (2000)
(5 out of 5 stars)

Good Lord, do I love 16 Horsepower. After their incredible debut record (reviewed here) they released more of the same, with only slightly less excellent results. Until Secret South, that is. The record retains everything that made the band great, the proprietary blend of dark Appalachia/country/grunge/punk/etc., but in retrospect it clearly marks a shift for David Eugene Edwards and company. Its focus is more on the sound, less on hook-oriented songs, and it jettisons the occasional upbeat moments of its predecessors. The songs themselves are still each worthy in their own right, though. As a complete experience, they never exceeded it. It's fitting, then, that it would be the band's last record of new original material, and is a perfect segue into Edwards' Wovenhand.

Look, if you're a regular reader of mine and you haven't checked them out yet, get on it right now. Check out "Strawfoot," "Cinder Alley," and the incredible rendition of "Wayfaring Stranger."

Buy Secret South

Steve Von Till: As the Crow Flies (2000)
4 out of 5 stars

At the same time that 16 Horsepower were exploring a more soundscape-based approach from the country angle, Neurosis's Steve Von Till was coming to it from the metal side of things. The bread and butter of As the Crow Flies is extremely understated, simple, droning acoustic guitar riffs and low-key singing in an almost poetic style, with some guitar counterpoints. The production embellishments to that are done with a light hand. Sometimes, there may be an echo effect, or the vocals may sound distant; subtle string and female vocal accompaniment join in, but it's quite the opposite of baroque. Think of Simon & Garfunkel with the soul of Neurosis, and you'll get the idea.

Buy As the Crow Flies

The Hackensaw Boys: Keep It Simple (2002)
3 out of 5 stars

The Hackensaw Boys play folk/country with almost nothing but stringed instruments. The musicianship is entertaining, and I like the backwater vibe the music and the nasally country vocals give off. I find the darker sounding cuts like "Jonah," "Gypsy," and "Keep Me Lord" are the most enjoyable (as you might expect) but even the rest of it is a fine reprieve from oppressively heavy doom metal. Most of it wouldn't be a go-to for me.

Buy Keep It Simple

1 comment:

  1. Sackcloth n' Ashes was already on my wishlist. Ditto Secret South, now.