Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 3

I keep on listening to more and more of what I call dark Americana. I wrote these brief reviews before my brother died, but the music speaks to me now more than ever. Raise a glass to pain.

The Builders and the Butchers: Dead Reckoning (2010)
4 out of 5 stars

After wading through dozens of unknown entities without any discernible connection to metal or punk, I finally found one that was really worthy of attention. The Builders and the Butchers is a folk-rock band that sound like a combination of Man's Gin and 16 Horsepower, fronted by Eddie Vedder. It's catchy, mostly dark (drug themes, etc.) and has the right Americana vibe that I'm always looking for, with a laundry list of different instruments all making an appearance. The search has been worth it, and will continue. Check out Dead Reckoning.

Tangentially, why would you have a laundry list? You wash the dirty ones.

Buy Dead Reckoning

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Murder Ballads (1996)
4 out of 5 stars

Nick Cave is one of the better-known artists I've covered in this series, and Murder Ballads is one of his better-known records. But for those of you who aren't familiar, you should be. This is only my second Nick Cave album, so I can't make sweeping statements, but Murder Ballads is a lot like Tom Waits with a little Johnny Cash and John Lee Hooker ("One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer", not "Boom Boom"). Sparse piano, bass, electric organ, and (to a lesser extent) electric guitar are the most prominent instruments, but the full list is extensive. Even so, the focal point is the twisted storytelling, and the music is here for mood. If that appeals to you, give it a shot, and don't let guest vocals by pop star Kylie Minogue dissuade you (they're actually quite good).

Buy Murder Ballads

T.G. Olson: Songs of Woody Guthrie (2012)
2.5 out of 5 stars

T.G. Olson's main band is Across Tundras, a band which may be more dark Americana than it is metal, these days. Olson also has a slew of pay-what-you-want releases of straight Americana, like this collection of Woody Guthrie covers. Guthrie is one of the country names that comes up a lot among metalheads, but I've never listened to him. Judging by this, I'm not sure I'd want to. Not that I don't enjoy it just fine, but these are straight-sounding covers with acoustic guitar and that country whine, with little or nothing else. They aren't terribly interesting from a musical standpoint. When he adds in some electric leads, it gets better (opener "Buffalo Skinners" is fantastic), but it's clear this has much more to do with the vagabond tales than anything else. However, closer "Dirty Jolly Banker" is shockingly poignant today, and I did find myself humming "Pastures of Plenty."

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