Built around a sparse country jangle and haunting vocals the music of Feral is infectious. The Oakland band’s latest offering - Aromatic Bitters - is an enjoyable batch of tunes about bad things. As listeners embark on this dark journey they will get caught up in a world of death, despair and disillusionment. Yes that is a lot of “D’s”. With a self-proclamation that they want to be like “Johnny and June” Cindy Emch, Norman Carley and Ed Cagnacci have successfully captured a sound that is equal parts Cash, Cave and Murder By Death.
Feral states on their website that they give people beautiful songs about horrible people and after partaking in Aromatic Bitters that description is dead on. The jangly “Dead and Gone” is a toe tapping number about a dysfunctional relationship. While all the bad flows in and out of your ears the musical arrangements keep things from burrowing into a deep dark place. On the shadowy “Crinoline” Feral weaves a gut wrenching tale about loss and disappointment and “Doomed Waltz” is a dark tale of personal destruction. While songs such as “Fluevogs & Bourbon” and “Whiskey & Burn Barrels” bring out the best in what Feral has to offer it is the track “Holy Man” that rises to the top of Aromatic Bitters. Harnessing the deep gravelly vocal sounds of Tom Waits, the nearly 8 minute track leads listeners through a brooding tale about heaven, hell, Jesus and the Devil. As the song progresses Feral lets it be known that if you are going to live a life of bad decisions be prepared for the consequences.
The fourteen songs on Aromatic Bitters are a manifestation of the contrast between delightful melodies and disheartened words. Feral could just as easily created a soundscape that was as brooding as the lyrics but thankfully they did not. Their folk and country tinged music provides a glimmer of hope to the darkness that surrounds the people, places and events of their woeful tales. Aromatic Bitters is an album built on substance and the further you travel through its songs it reeks of bourbon soaked comradery leading one to believe Emch, Carley & Cagnacci concocted this batch of tunes while tossing back a few during a jam session. The album gets better over time as different layers expose themselves with each listen. If you want music that follows what is popular listen to the radio, if you want something original listen to Feral’s Aromatic Bitters.