Album Review

Working at an Elevated Pace

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers - Slow Trauma

Bill Mallonee’s latest album spans a sonic range which veers from sleepy, introspective ballads to songs with a sweeping set-up. While it’s easy to lose track of just how many albums Mallonee’s released over the past 20 years or so, suffice it to say he’s no slacker. Despite the fact he seems to offer up a new effort every month or so, each is equally compelling and deserving of a listen.

Indeed, Mallonee is an Americana original. He's the one-time leader of Vigilantes of Love, a band out of Athens, Georgia, that sorely lacked the recognition they deserved. Mallonee keeps their name alive through retrospectives and re-releases, but its his solo stock -- now numbering approximately 50 titles -- that garners the most attention these days. And attention is due, because this year alone he’s added no fewer than five albums to his expansive catalog: Future Hymns for the New Idolatry, WinnowingLands & Peoples, and New York State of Mind, all in addition to aforementioned Slow Trauma. A multi-tasker by any other name still wouldn’t come close. 

“I learned lap steel for this one, so it shows up a bit,” Mallonee says, elaborating on Slow Trauma’s furtive feel. “It’s a good foil to the lead guitars. Ultimately, it's a record about death, mortality, grief and loss. Not sure how one markets that! But I've been wrestling with these ‘dark/light’ themes for the last four or five albums. Just staying true to my truths, you know?" 

There’s no questioning Mallonee’s commitment, and while faith and determination form a cornerstone of his work, the music never comes across as either preachy or precious. Mallonee lays out a determined groove, as rugged and unflappable as the Southwestern environs that he and his wife, steady collaborator, and keyboardist Muriah Rose (who recently released Beneath the Clay, credited to her as an album of her own) call home. 

If Mallonee is to be faulted for anything, it’s that he’s never content to rest on his laurels. He’s a man with a restless soul, prone to rabid creativity, so much so that his fans are always scrambling to keep up with his outpour. But that’s also a trait worth relishing -- any high bar he’s set for himself is inevitably scaled each and every time out. That’s clearly the case with Slow Trauma and the rest of those releases mentioned above.

Mallonee ought to be a lot better known than he is now, if only for the fact that his music shows such depth, skill, and consistency. Indeed, it’s  hard to imagine anyone with a more reliable wellspring of resources and imagination. Whether it’s Slow Trauma or high drama, Bill Mallonee’s made his mark as a tireless troubadour of no uncertain standing.  

"The guy ought to be a lot better known than he is now, if only for the fact that his music shows such depth, skill, and consistency".  Absolutely true.  "Lands and Peoples" is such a great record...it is criminal that Bill isn't better known...as you noted, he's ridiculously prolific...As someone who picked up on him back in the VOL days, I wish the guy had gotten the recognition he deserves...fantastic artist...thanks Lee...

Thanks for your comment Jim - Bill is so steadfast in his devotion to craft - he deserves to be rewarded with recognition

"Depth, skill, and consistency", indeed. I love Bill's work. I'd own all 50 albums if I could afford them. I listen to over 500+ songwriters, and know of not a single one, that can put out 5 albums (all of them good) in a single year. It's insane. I got to hear him play, and meet him, just once here in Nashville. He was a gentleman, and a excellent performer. I was surprised by neither.      Ramcey in Nashville

ANOTHER one?! How do you keep up with Bill's output? ;) Very happy to have a new Bill Mallonee album to sink my teeth into. Thanks for putting it out there.

It IS hard to keep up! I agree - that's why I made mention of several more recent efforts - happily his quality control never falters!