Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Night Horse - Perdition Hymns

Night Horse
Perdition Hymns
Tee Pee

It’s hard to make 70s-style hard rock sound new anymore. It’s been around the block so damn many times, not only in the Me Decade but even now – just check your average underground rock club. That’s not to say a lot of the revivalist acts aren’t good– just that they have a distinctly retro whiff coming off of them, making them mostly guilty pleasures. But there are some bands who play the style not as a retreat from or reaction to any perceived flaws in modern music, but just because for them it’s timeless and they dig it.

Night Norse
is one of those bands. While the L.A. quintet draws on familiar sources – Foghat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Faces – for the stew served on Perdition Hymns, it tastes remarkably fresh. That’s partly because, like its Midwestern contemporary Five Horse Johnson, the band incorporates the blues without really being a blues band – it understands the essence without feeling the need to prove its prowess. (Cf. Same Old Blues, a ballad that has more in common with Charles Brown than the Allman Bros.) It’s also partly because of things like the psychedelic guitar intro of Hard to Bear or the charisma of vocalist Sam James Velde. Mainly, though, it’s because the Horse means it. The band writes robust songs a la Angel Eyes, Shake Your Blues and Black Clouds (the soulful ballad the Black Crowes have trying to create for two decades) and plays ‘em with neither irony nor melodrama. Perdition Hymns is the kind of meat and potatoes rock & roll that reminds you why such simple, wholesome fare is so nutritious in the first place.

- Michael Toland

Hillstomp - Darker the Night

Darker the Night
In Music We Trust

Few bands are as evocatively named as Portland duo Hillstomp. You want backwoods hillbilly raveups? You got it – check Banjo Song #s1 & 2, Old Plank Road and Cold Dark Woods. Or would you prefer juke joint blues stomps? You get those, too – cf. S.I.R., Up Here and Cardiac Arrest in D. You also get a nimble banjo instrumental (Blue Tick), an earnestly performed folk tune (Crawdad Hole), a percussion-driven field chant (Hammer Ring) and bluesy gospel (the title track). If there’s American music made before major labels swooped in, packaged and marketed the shit out of it, Hillstomp is into it. Make no mistake, though – this is no nostalgia act. Guitarist Henry Christian and drummer John Johnson don’t pretend they’re black or Appalachian natives – they just treat the music with the respect a timeless sound deserves, whether they’re kicking out originals or classics like Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Got to Move.” Raw but ramshackle, faithful to the spirit of its inspirations but not contrived or affected, Hillstomp uses old-time, pre-rock & roll music to rock your fucking face off. Awesome.

- Michael Toland
Delaney Davidson - Self Decapitation
Voodoo Rhythm

'I went down to the lake
I saw your mammy fuckin a snake' -

New Zealand native Davidson checking in with a cause for all those contrivedly whimsical, scarcely literate carny fakers to really get a quakin' about and all the rest to check what's cluttering up this tattered suitcase of clusterbomb country and piston-snapping blues for bedtimes that bleed slime - a mere cursory glance of which could instigate an inter-continental Custer-flunk. Third solo album and first on the venerable Beatman's Voodoo label (and featuring the director of les diabolique himself on git-tar) may mine fertile descents of murder ballad badlands and rancorous hankerings, but it butchers and maims them all to it's own drill-bit of devilment as it wends it's way on creepy journey like a tourniquet scrinching your soul, the caskets of curiosity filling your old hats and digging new holes for gateposts. You can see why he's a one time member of unstable same-label ghouls The Dead Brothers* and a compatibe touring compadre of the unimpeachable Possessed By Paul James. There's a real undaunted, devout air of dread ready to devour any undaring companions winding through the woodland whistles, Slavic brass breakdowns, Spaghetti western that spooked poor Hetty in perpetuity (the velvetly mourning Lee Hazlewood intonement Seasons Of God), canyon-cracking cowpunk and atomic boomchickaboomboomboom (I Slept Late) to industrial Leadbelly (In The Pines), Syd Barrett possessing latter-day Leonard Cohen spectrals (Tonight), flambed flamenco (Lackie's Men) to sporadic episodes of deranged dwarf polka romps devoid of self-conscious pomp 'n ceremony that'll put creaks in any floorboards and cracks in many a skull all regaled with a voice both caustic and sinister but equally capable of cauterising nocturnal brain abrasions as much as it capsizes your sanctity, all a-hover in the hollow-bodied echo of aeons. This guy's done some hard ramblin' that he transmutes into majestically macabre sermons of enticement to enchant the straggler who's finally wising up to the bohemian tedium 'oooh i'm mad me, ain't I, Joe' of little boring cuntlroy's that litter the aching, gratingly hip alleys of this eastern european gypsy-punk speckled birdcage. The bastard swagger of Magpie Song, at the gritty, gallows end succinctly spits on all that has passed. On the record and p'raps most of these last years. If there is Deliverance in the darklands, then d-d-d-d-d-doooo deliver our sorry asses to Davidson Holler, dog dammit.
Stu Gibson
*Dead Brothers
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