Wednesday, September 23, 2015


"This song's never going to end, is it Candy?," Rawlings sings on Candy, a rare lighthearted, old-time sing along on this new album.  That's a good joke as it's one of only a couple of normal-length cuts on the set, which features just seven sons, one of them topping ten minutes, the others running between five and eight.  Rawlings and co. can do this string-band, O Brother-type song even better than the originals, and could have filled another album with only that, but not this time.

Working with Gillian Welch (natch) and a small group of guests, Rawlings takes the lead vocals on these band recordings, but there's more that makes these different from a Welch-fronted release.  The songs have a darker edge, with mystery and a Southern gothic feel.  While there's fiddle on some, other major tracks such as Short Haired Woman Blues make full use of a string section, making it a full drama.  The Trip, the opus of the bunch, sees Rawlings half-speaking the words, in the easy-going but poignant way Loudon Wainwright III leads you into a song.  His are more personal though; Rawlins has some nastier family dirt to dig through:  "Ah, but what's a bullet hole or two between friends?"  The slow-paced cowboy tune gives it some high-lonesome flavour, but it's just as powerful as Desolation Row once you follow the story.

It gets bleaker.  If you like Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy, Bodysnatchers could have come from On The Beach, if you moved it from L.A. to the Mississippi.  Cinematic and allegorical, there's a rich listen here, certainly a full companion to any Welch album.

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