I'm driving down the road at two in the morning, tired, an albums length away from home. Of the three CDs I have with me, only one has remained unheard. I slip it into the player and turn up the sound, hoping to ward off the sleep demons and some of the most godawful music I've ever heard starts to ooze out of the speakers--- the vocals vampish, dark--- the stringed instruments sounding waterlogged or warped or maybe strung with actual catgut. There doesn't seem to be more than two chords and it drones on in a sort of apathy and I'm thinking about tossing it out the window (okay, that's just a euphemism, whatever a euphemism is) but something prevents it. Track two--- two different chords and a voice that does not sound like it has been phoned in. Is this about death? Track three--- New Orleans jazz? Trumpet, trombone? What the hell? I get it. The album is soundtrack from the Twenties. Old black-and-white cartoons flash before my eyes. But it has a hook, if hook you can call it. Track four--- a bizarre take on “Amazing Grace?” Is it actually “Amazing Grace?” It is so far out there I can't tell. Track five--- something straight out of border radio--- so backwoods and immediate it sounds like it was recorded at the radio station those clowns visited in O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
All thoughts of tossing the CD are gone now. I'm beginning to understand and the more I understand the more I like it only now it is beyond like. I am falling in love with this album. Shades of The Beige's El Angel Exterminador it is, stretching and pushing and pulling in terms of creativity with just enough musical cache to hold it together.
Track seven--- “Evil.” A study in bass viol... or is it vitriol? Deep, deep texture. Short but not sweet. My mind thuds. Again, what the hell?
Track eight--- “Hurricane.” Voice slightly distorted, shades of Alice Texas. Not talking blues but it is talk, of sorts. Rhythm and chaos. Pounding drums, orchestral dissonance. Film music a la The Last Rites of Ransom Pride. Desert on the duster.
Track ten--- More music for black-and-white cartoons. Deep, dark and yet somehow uplifting.
“Silent Night?” Are you kidding me? Not anything like the Christmas song outside of the lyrics. Again, what the hell? But it is good! Really good! It just isn't for Christmas anymore.
Kim Grant, the publicist who sent me the CD, could have warned me. Rich Dembowski is part of this band. He was the force behind Old Californio, a band everyone should research and a band I love(d). Kim knows this. His old buddy, pedal steel player Woody Aplanalp, who was also with Old Californio, plays on a track also. This isn't anything like Old Californio. It is quite unlike the vast majority of things I've heard.
They call it blackgrass. I suppose there is a reason. I didn't read the promotion sheet which came with the CD. I didn't want it to cloud my judgment. I'm almost afraid to read it now. I could easily have gotten everything wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.
There is one final what-the hell. Here it is April 21st and the album is scheduled for release July 15th. That's too long to wait. Petition the band. Hound them. Stalk them. This is an album some of you need to hear, if only to regain your faith in music again. They can be reached at elouisemusic.com.
Oh, and before I forget. This is the first album I have come across in some time which sounds like its album jacket. Ponder that, if you will.