CD Review - Emperors of Wyoming (self titled)
I’ll get the ‘elephant in the room’ out of the way at the beginning; The Emperors of Wyoming are legendary record producer, Butch Vig’s new band (hobby) and I’m sure you already know, it was Vig who produced Nirvana’s NEVERMIND album in 1991 and subsequently a host of other post-Punk albums that have won him a mass of awards.
None of which suggested that he had an album like this up his sleeve. After listening to the album over the course of two weeks it’s apparent that Vig loves Alt-Country in all its formats as several key influences creep into the sound; but nothing that’s too overbearing.
The Bittersweet Sound of Goodbye starts with a cool acoustic intro and Phil Davis’ adenoidal voice carries the song along a well worn path; but is as good an album opener as I’ve heard this year.
Never Got Over is no ordinary ‘lost my best Gal’ love song; because a pump organ that sounds like a wheezing heart and Vig’s intensely tight drumming makes it sound like nothing you’ve ever heard before (in a good way).
Although it’s another ‘broken hearted love song’ I particularly like Brand New Heart of Stone as it’s quite angry and a lot darker than I’d expected and best played LOUD.
The oddest track on the album and therefore a furrow I’d have liked them to experiment more with is John Martyn’s Bless the Weather which sounds as good as anything that Neil Young and Crazy Horse ever recorded together.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the album and heartily recommend it to you; especially if you are new to Alt-Country and Americana music; but (there’s always a but); because Vig has been at the top of his game for 20 or more years the production values throughout are outstanding with every instrument and voice sounding absolutely perfect; which is why I’ve (sadly) taken half a point away from the overall mark. For me; and I could be wrong here, Alt-Country bands and the best in Country-Rock always sound best when they are a bit ragged around the edges and; well…..The Emperors of Wyoming band (and album) are simply too squeaky clean for my liking.
Again; there’s nothing wrong with using the Eagles and Tom Petty as astarting point if the Emperors of Wyoming were a young band just starting out; but with all of their combined experience I’d have hoped for something deeper and more interesting; rather than every track sounding as if it was made on the say-so of an Alt-Country Marketing consultant who knows how to get this type of music onto AOR Radio.
EDITORS NOTE: Here are a couple tracks to stream on Soundcloud