Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dark Americana Briefs, Volume 17

If God is vengeance, we all have it coming.

Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding (1967)
4 out of 5 stars

With great tunes like "As I Went Out One Morning" and "All Along the Watchtower," it's easy to see why Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding is considered one of the greatest albums of all time. A consensus top 10 across genres and decades, if ever there was one. And Dylan is considered perhaps the greatest songwriter of all time. For my part, I enjoy it a great deal, the downbeat mood with acoustic guitar, drums, and harmonica being a style I enjoy, and the melodies solid. But I can't give it a perfect score for two reasons. One, I think this is one of those where lyrics are what elevate it, and I simply can't pay much attention to lyrics; they are nearly meaningless to me. Two, Dylan's voice sounds vaguely like Randy Newman.

Antic Clay: Hilarious Death Blues (2007)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Antic Clay is a stage name adopted by the frontman of another dark Americana band, Myssouri, for this one ambitious double-album. The name and some of the concept comes from a Cormac McCarthy work, so that should be a good indication of where this is coming from. Hilarious Death Blues weaves together blues, country, Irish folk, and a bit of Western, mainly with acoustic/electric guitar and harmonica. It's quite nice, and I'm sure you'll pick up on some "Ghost Riders in the Sky" in "On Holy Mountain," or Nick Cave in the doom-adjacent "Red Grass, Black Pasture."

Sean Rowe: The Salesman and the Shark (2012)
3 out of 5 stars

I heard "The Ballad of Buttermilk Falls" and fell in love with its Townes Van Zandt qualities, the perfect vocals, simple guitar line, string backing, and dark drama. Unfortunately it's not representative of the rest of Sean Rowe's 2012 release, which wavers between pure country and indie folk, with some old-fashioned pop, salsa rhythms, and not quite enough Tom Waits weirdness to make it worth seeking out.

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