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Category: nashvillle gothic

Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones Bring Their Irreverent Retro Rock to the East Village

Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones are connoisseurs of retro Americana sounds, from rockabilly to 60s soul music. They’re playing Otto’s on Sept 24 at 10 PM; for those who might say, “Eww, the East Village on a Saturday night,” keep in mind that so many of the touristy types who made the neighborhood a place to avoid on the weekend have left town.

Out of all the albums Hope and the band have put out over the years, the very best of them all might be their snarky, irreverent Songs in the Key of Quarantine, streaming at Bandcamp. The core of the band, singer/guitarist Hope and her bassist husband Matthew Goldpaugh put this spot-on, satirical ep out during the darkest months of 2020 with a little help from their bandmates.

The first track is Social Distancing Blues:

Can’t give no one a hug
Can’t hold my baby tight
You got to wear a hazmat suit to get into a fight

And it gets better from there.

Bad Time to Quit Drinking is a grimly funny tune: the gist of it is that there are other things you can do to get high. No Time to Get Bored is a shuffle where Lara chronicles all the goofy things you can do when you’re been put under house arrest by a totalitarian regime.

She shows off some snarling gutter blues guitar chops on You Are Essential, a duet with her husband where they send a grateful shout out to the retail and healthcare workers who kept the economy going when many of the rest of us were depersoned during the endless, bleak days of 2020.

She drops her guard for the sad, spare, plainspoken acoustic soul ballad When Will I See My Grandma Again? Then she picks up the pace with Go Big & Stay Home, a scruffy number which seems a lot more cynical than optimistic. The last song on the album is a cover and it’s not very good – and it’s by a corporate rock guy with blood on his hands. He made his drummer take the lethal Covid injection early during the band’s 2021 tour, and the drummer died after one of the first shows.

The band’s latest album is Here to Tell The Tale, a full-band record also up at Bandcamp, which came out last year. Lead guitarist Eddie Rion and drummer Jeremy Boniello scramble through a catchy, diverse mix that starts with a simmering ghoulabilly tune, then dips into smoky go-go sounds, vintage Loretta Lynn style C&W and jump blues.

The last time this blog was in the house at one of the band’s shows, it was in 2018 at an Amsterdam Avenue bar which had neither stage nor PA system. Running everything through their amps, the band managed to keep a noisy neighborhood crowd at this onetime dive under control, no small achievement.

Northern Noir Band the Sadies Leave Us With What Could Be The Best Album of 2022

Guitarist Dallas Good said that his band the Sadies‘ new album Colder Streams was the best record they’d ever made. They began recording it in 2019. Good and his bandmates had to sneak across provincial borders during the tyrannical Canadian lockdown to finally finish it in the summer of 2021. Too bad he didn’t live to see it. The lethal Covid injection killed him at 49 this past February.

The Sadies put out a ton of good albums, both under their own name as well as backing Neko Case. They started out in Americana, somewhere between Nashville gothic and punkgrass and by the time they wrapped up this one – streaming at Bandcamp – they’d gone in a more electric, psychedelic direction. Dallas Good was right: this is the Sadies best record. More than that, it’s a potent, metaphorically chilling historical document and arguably the best rock album of 2022.

The opening track, Stop and Start perfectly capsulizes the band’s sound in their final days: dense, reverb-drenched layers of jangle, clang, swirl and occasional scream from the Good brothers’ guitars over the precise, swinging groove of bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. It may or may not be a lockdown parable – either way, it offers guarded hope for a new future:

The sickness comes like a rising sun
Now your war is done, what have you become?
Are you too far down to stop right now?
You can start right now
Stop and start right now

Is it a surprise that the next track – released as a single this past winter – would be titled Message to Belial? “The dark of all ages has come,” the band harmonize somberly over a spiky thicket of reverb guitar.in this parable of a less than sympathetic devil.

Dallas Good’s lingering, twangy lines resonate over his brother Travis’ layers of distantly Beatlesque acoustic rhythm in More Alone, an increasingly angst-fueled elegy for both people and places gone forever:

In this day and age
Rage has become all the rage
We choose to behave
Like wolves left to starve in a cage
We keep going in circles around around
Spinning faster and faster and faster
Go round in the end and then start back down again
Looking forward to another disaster

So Far For So Few is a bouncy mashup of bluegrass and Flamin’ Groovies janglerock, growing more psychedelic and enveloping on the wings of Dallas’ soaring lead lines.

Fueled by stark banjo and some intricate guitar flatpicking, All the Good – with the brothers’ mom and dad Margaret and Bruce Good on harmony vocals and autoharp, respectively – is a throwback to the band’s more acoustic late 90s sound.

Jon Spencer guests on fuzz guitar on No One’s Listening, a scorching update on ominous 60s Laurel Canyon psych-folk: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you anymore,” is the crushingly ironic key to the song. You Should Be Worried, a gorgeously resonant open-tuned front-porch folk tune, has even darker foreshadowing: “I’m not worried about you, you should be worried about me,” the band harmonize.

They go back to scampering reverb-plated garage-psych rock in Better Yet, with a tantalizingly blistering acoustic/electric guitar duel. Then they turbocharge the Nashville gothic with silvery sheets of reverb guitar in Cut Up High and Dry before taking a brief, surreal detour into dub.

They keep the scampering drive going through Ginger Moon, with what’s arguably Dallas’ most savage solo here. In an eerie stroke of fate, the final cut is titled End Credits, an intricately layered, Morricone-esque southwestern gothic instrumental. How tragic to see such a great band go out at the top of their game.

A Harrowing Solo Comeback Album and a Rare New York Show by Cult Icon Nina Nastasia

For about a decade beginning in the late 90s, songwriter Nina Nastasia earned a devoted following for her frequently haunting, painterly work. It’s hard to think of another artist who so perceptively captured the details in the darkness beneath the bustle in gritty New York neighborhoods which became artistic meccas before they were crushed in a blitzkrieg of gentrification.

The city’s decline mirrored Nastasia’s own. By 2010, her performing career had pretty much stalled. As Nastasia tells it, she and her longtime partner Kennan Gudjonsson sequestered themselves a tiny Chelsea apartment, caught up in a cycle of abuse and codependence. The day after Nastasia finally moved out, in January 2020, Gudjonsson killed himself.

In the first few months of the lockdown, Nastasia was able to process what by all accounts must have been inconceivable pain, and the result is a harrowing solo vinyl record, Riderless Horse, streaming at Bandcamp. She’s playing what could be her first Williamsburg show in at least fifteen years at Union Pool on August 20 at 7 PM for $20

It’s been a dozen years since Nastasia released an album, but she’s emerged a stronger singer than ever. Meanwhile, her songwriting has taken a detour into Americana. With her usual black humor, she opens with the sound of a cork popping: this will not exactly be a party, but it’s impossible to turn away from.

The album’s first song is Just Stay in Bed, a spare Tex-Mex flavored tune in 6/8. Just when it sounds like it’s going to turn into a fond love song, Nastasia’s voice grows menacing. Clearly this was a dysfunctional relationship on both sides.

Her vocals rise to fiery accusatory levels over steady strumming in the second track, You Were So Mad, a stoic breakup ballad: “You set a blaze inside our house, you set a blaze and smoked us out.” This Is Love is a subdued heartland rock anthem, a chronicle of “taking turns to follow and lead into the dissonance.”

The narrative grows uglier over Nastasia’s enigmatic fingerpicking in Nature, a plainspoken portrait of violence, and how easy it is to become habituated to it. This dynamic will resonate intensely through the rest of the record.

Nastasia switches to waltz time for Lazy Road, although even in this bucolic calm, death is lurking nearby. She revisits that atmosphere a little later with the bluegrass-tinged Blind As Batsies.

“I keep you alive as best as I can do,” Nastasia sings imploringly, but ultimately “to choose life over illness and leave,” in another waltz, Ask Me. She switches back to a muted Americana sway in the ironically titled The Two of Us, which wouldn’t be out of place on an Amy Rigby record from the 90s:

The simmering rage returns in Go Away: “There’s only one way to for me to give you peace, for me to leave: bury me,” Nastasia taunts. She follows with The Roundabout, an anguished request to bury the conflict under a blanket of denial.

The next track, Trust is the closest thing here to the stark sparkle that permeates Nastasia’s iconic early work. She sings to a ghost, in waltz time again, in Afterwards: “Love is tiresome when you’re older…it makes me wonder about the years that came before, and all the things I must ignore.” As a portrait of a relationship unraveling with catastrophic consequences, this ranks with Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights. Time may judge this a classic – just like Nastasia’s earlier albums, particularly The Blackened Air, her most bleakly orchestral release, from 2001.

A Darkly Psychedelic, Brilliantly Epic New Album From the Frank Flight Band

It takes a lot of nerve, or just plain honesty, to call your new album’s opening number The Odyssey. In eighteen minutes, the Frank Flight Band validate that, as they veer from snarling Stonesy rock, to heavy soul, swaying country clang, an electrified raga and a searing guitar boogie on the way out. This music isn’t for people with short attention spans, but their new record, Impossibly Obscure – streaming at youtube – could be the high point of an already brilliant if underrated career. And that includes the apocalyptic, visionary Remains album as well as the more Doors/Santana-influenced Outrunning the Sun.

On one hand, you could make the case that the Frank Flight Band are the British Blue Oyster Cult. But the Southport-based group are a lot more diverse, and lyrically sharp. Guitarist Frank Flight is neither the lead instrumentalist nor the singer in this project, but instead surrounds himself with a shifting cast of musicians who bring many different shades of brilliance to his darkly psychedelic, frequently epic songs.

The group’s latest addition, keyboardist and lead singer Michael Woody Woodward contributes that first magnum opus. We hear the ocean lapping the shore as the first anxious, spare twin-guitar theme flickers into focus in this metaphorically bristling, desperate account of disaster and a herculean effort to reclaim lost time. Lead guitarist Alex Kenny fires off one slashing, succinct, Gilmouresque lead after another over Danny Taylor’s spare, melodic bass and Dave Veres’s understatedly colorful drumwork.

Taylor’s strutting bass pushes the second track, Well Connected, a snarling broadside aimed at a corrupt, sinister Boris Johnson type, Woodward’s organ and synthesized orchestration over the snappy forward drive.

Flight flings out icily luscious layers of jangle and clang to open Dead on Arrival, a practically thirteen-minute opus that evokes the Doors as much as his band’s own magnificently ominous Dark Waters, from the Remains record. The contrast between Kenny’s purist, piercingly bluesy leads and Woodward’s symphonic sweep, a persistent trope throughout the album, comes into sharp focus here.

The band switch between a relentlessly creepy, crawling chromatic theme and Lynchian Orbison noir sweep in Not If But When, an allusively imagistic portrait of a world at the edge of collapse. This could be the theme song for 2022.

They make a big, emphatic psychedelic anthem out of a vintage 60s soul tune in Medicine Man, a cautionary tale about pharmaceuticals (the kind people do for fun) with a spiraling Woodward piano solo. Flight adds layers acoustic guitar and mandolin to the sepulchrally ringing mix in Tango for Lost Souls, a gorgeously swaying coastal tableau: “Haunted eyes turn like daggers when the music starts to play.”

The band take a surprising turn into brisk folk noir to introduce the final cut, Man in Red, then rise to an angst-fueled 6/8 sway on the wings of Kenny’s incisive volleys of blues. We’re about halfway through the year and there hasn’t been a rock record released this year that can touch this. Fans of the visionary dark psychedelic classics: Floyd, the Doors, peak-era Nektar, and the first four BOC records will love this album.

A Brilliant, Starkly Smoldering Album From Guitarslinger Phil Gammage

Phil Gammage is one of the great polymath guitarists in New York. He got his start as a hotshot lead player with second-gen CBGB band Certain General while still in his teens,. But the native Texan always stayed in touch with his Americana roots. Over the years, he’s gone deep into Chicago blues, hard country and even spare dustbowl folk. On the mic, he’s a crooner with a noir streak. In the years before the lockdown, he could be found at small venues across Manhattan, and he’s back at a favorite haunt, 11th Street Bar in the East Village tonight, June 22 at 8:30 PM.

His latest album Nowhere to Somewhere – streaming at Bandcamp – is his strongest and most diverse release in a long and underrated career. The level of songcraft matches the vast stylistic range in Gammage’s bag of riffs. He opens with Walk in the Sun,-a dirty bumpa-bumpa blues, Hound Dog Taylor mixed with Sleepy LaBeef and a little peak-era mid-80s Gun Club.

Gammage switches to acoustic twelve-string for Between the Tracks, then adds simmering electric layers and spare piano for a distantly menacing Dream Syndicate ambience. Greg Holt’s violin swirls over Michael Fox’s lithe drums and Brian Karp’s low-key bass in Voice on the Phone, a tasty mashup of 70s Stylistics soul and early 50s pre-rockabilly.

Gammage reinvents the Appalachian gothic ballad Alone and Forsaken as spare Mark Sinnis-style cemetery and western with funeral-parlor organ lurking in the background. Then he picks up the pace with What Would I Do, blending slurry blues riffs, sophisticated countrypolitan phrasing and spare, incisive Chicago blues.

Gammage works a warmly familiar four-chord front-porch folk progression in Come on Lightning, Holt’s violin weaving and dancing overhead. He returns to Nashville gothic for the gloomy electric Hank Williams shuffle Just Another Traveling Man, the ghost choir of Michele Butler and Joe Nieves lingering in the background.

It’s impossible to think of a more creepy, lurid, Lynchian cover of Night Life than the spare, sepulchral one here. Next, Gammage mashes up classic Carl Perkins rockabilly and a little southern-fried mid-80s boogie in Never Ending Setting Sun.

He works terse contrasts between acoustic and electric, major and minor in the nocturnally swaying Shadow Road. So Long and Goodbye, the closing cut, is the closest thing to 21st century Americana here. Like so many albums that came out in the musical dead zone that was the fall and winter of 2021, this one pretty much sank without a trace, which is too bad because it’s a clinic in purist guitar. Fans of Eric Ambel, Steve Wynn and the edgy first wave of Americana bands from the 80s like the Long Ryders will love this.

Faithless Town Release the Best Freedom Anthem of 2022 So Far

There’s been a lot of great freedom music released this year, but the best song of the bunch so far is Atlanta band Faithless Town‘s Live Free. It’s a defiantly swaying protest anthem, a mashup of ELO and peak-era Oasis, a bittersweet symphony for 2022. Frontman/guitarist Gene Owens reminds that now is not the time to be riding the fence:

Open your eyes
And see the lies
That you’ve been told
Your mind doesn’t belong to you anymore
Fear is not a virtue
It’s time to be brave
Do you wanna live free or die as a slave’

And the video is inspiring, a montage largely taken from the Highwire coverage of the London protests last summer.

The song is the centerpiece of the band’s new album Into The Light Vol.1, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s the first part of a full-length record that’s on track to be finished later this summer. The band have been through some personnel changes, but the current lineup of Owens with Aaron Rogers on lead guitar, Nathan Rudolf on bass and Vic Fischer on drums is arguably their strongest ever. Owens’ smartly crafted tunesmithing spans from punkabilly to Americana to lyrical, singalong stadium rock, occasionally bolstered by organ or strings behind the twin-guitar attack.

The opening track is Berkshire, a stomping, Celtic-tinged punk tune that brings to mind Stiff Little Fingers or Wormburner. The group follow with Not Goodbye, a soaring, bittersweet anthem in the same vein, with a tantalizing, slashing Rogers guitar solo at the center

What I’m Dreaming Of is a swaying, distantly Beatlesque, midtempo salute to being openminded in an era of endless divide-and-conquer: “Don’t trust the TV, don’t believe your feed,” Owens cautions. The band take a detour into a vein they explored earlier in their career with Coal Mining Man, a Nashville gothic-flavored workingman’s lament about the decline of the domestic coal industry.

They go back to a Reducers-style garage-punk punch with Someone to Think Of and close the record with Do Not Comply, a relentless, hard-hitting, cynical singalong:

One shot to buy your freedom
Two shots to go outside
Three shots to see your family
Four shots and then you die
Do not comply
See through their lies
Do not comply or you’ll die

Faithless Town’s next gig is May 27 at 9 PM at Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave NE in Atlanta with swamp rockers Handsome Jack; cover is $10.

In Memoriam: Dallas Good

One of the world’s most mesmerizing, versatile guitarists, Dallas Good of the Sadies died Friday shortly after being diagnosed with an undisclosed coronary condition. He was 48.

Good and his guitarist brother Travis led the Sadies from stardom in their native Ontario to global fame, beginning in the 90s as one of the more bluegrass-oriented of the wave of bands in the alt-country movement. Over the years, they moved further into psychedelic rock, developing a jangly, eerily reverb-drenched sound they called “northern gothic.” They collaborated and recorded with a wide range of artists including Neko Case, Andre Williams and Gord Downie.

Dallas Good was equally adept at twangy country fills, nimble bluegrass flatpicking, serpentine surf rock and long, searing psychedelic passages. Although he propelled the band’s songs to a volcanic intensity onstage, he was the rare lead guitarist whose style was built on subtlety rather than flash. In recent years, he had become the group’s primary songwriter. Sharing lead vocals with his brother, he had a strong baritone voice and a flair for vintage suits.

Offstage, Good was a thoughtful, erudite presence, a connoisseur of vintage guitars and amps, with an encyclopedic knowledge of music that ranged far beyond the band’s many stylistic influences.

In an eerie stroke of foreshadowing, the Sadies’ final single, recorded last year, was titled Message to Belial (a Biblical name for Satan). “The end of all nations, the darkest of ages has come,” the brothers harmonized over the band’s usual plaintive, ominous wash of jangle and clang. Deepest condolences to his family, his bandmates Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky, and everyone who had the good fortune to know him.

A Fascinating, Colorful Coffee Table Book by Nashville Gothic Crooner Mark Sinnis

For those who think of Mark Sinnis as one of the most prolific songwriters on the dark side of country music, there’s a lot more to the story. Sinnis chronicles that turbulent and colorful career in a new coffee table book packed with rare, previously unpublished photos along with original handwritten lyrics, show flyers and newspaper concert listings. Limited edition signed copies are available for fifty bucks.

It’s an amazing historical artifact. In so many ways, Sinnis’ personal story mirrors the history of rock music in New York since the late 1980s. At the peak of his popularity here, he fronted Ninth House, who began as a sleek, haunting art-rock group, then took a detour into haphazard jamband territory and eventually reinvented themselves as a tight East Coast counterpart to Social Distortion,

In the meantime, that popularity waned. Sinnis went from headlining Saturday night shows at just about every club in the East Village, to playing sparsely attended off-nights at a Financial District titty bar, before getting brain-drained out of the city in 2008. What happened?

The paper-and-polaroids trail starts in 1988, when Sinnis founded the Apostates, a punk band with a promising lyrical edge, who didn’t stay together long enough to find a distinctive sound. And yet, they were getting decent gigs, playing venues like the World, which booked acts like the Pixies and Jesus & Mary Chain.

Those shots of Sinnis holding a cheap red knockoff Fender bass, sporting long hair and not a single tattoo, are almost comical considering his current rig and look. But a couple of pages later, the tattoos are starting to creep up the arms, and he’s playing a vintage Rickenbacker. And Ninth House are on fire, with a New Years Eve gig at CB’s Gallery.

For Ninth House, it’s a long trail down from from there. As their old stomping ground was erased in a blitzkrieg of gentrification, they held on as long as they could, with a long-running monthly Saturday night residency at the old Hank’s in Brooklyn. Yet as bad as the gigs get for Ninth House, Sinnis is busy honing his craft at a solo artist at acoustic venues all over town, developing the “cemetery and western” sound he’s best known for today.

After an aborted stay in the Hudson River Valley – where he managed to assemble a crackerjack honkytonk band – Sinnis has found a new home and a new band in the coastal college town of Wilmington, North Carolina. And most recently, he’s switched fulltime from rhythm guitar or bass to lead guitar, a welcome development for a brilliantly melodic, economical player.

Many but not all of Sinnis’ supporting cast pop up throughout the book. There’s lead guitarists Bernard SanJuan, with his thousand-yard stare, and Keith Otten flexing his signature sunburst Les Paul. There’s a rare shot of violin goddess Susan Mitchell playing cello, and a playful vocal duet in the studio between Sinnis and Randi Russo (they nailed it on the first take). Longtime keyboardist and then drummer Francis Xavier, guitarist J.D. Fortay, pedal steel player Brian Aspinwall, banjo player/bagpiper Stephen Gara, drummer Michael Lillard, violinist Shirley Lebo and many others are all represented.

Sinnis’ lyrics can be fascinating: his writing has become much more straightforward, in keeping with the Americana tradition, but many of the older songs are absolutely brilliant. There’s an awful lot to sift through here, with rewarding results. Case in point: notice how Sinnis switched the first line of the chorus of Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me from “You got what you wanted,” to “Realize and confront it.”

These days, Sinnis owns the picturesque, retro music-themed Beale Street Barber Shop in Wilmington, where he and other North Carolina bands play frequently on the stage in the back, when he’s not making records at Sun Studios or videos at Hank Williams’ grave.

The Funniest and Most Serious Songs of the Week

Time for another short self-guided playlist today: half a dozen songs in about eighteen minutes. Click artist names for their webpages; click song titles for audio.

The most hilarious one that’s come over the transom here in the wake of the hissyfit that Neil Young (and maybe his hedge fund handlers) threw about Rogan and Spotify is Sold Man, Curtis Stone and Media Bear’s parody of Neil Young’s Old Man. They nail everything, right down to the whiny falsetto:

Locked down in this 5G town
Live alone in the metaverse
Klaus Schwab’s coming for you…
I’m alone at last when I failed to cancel Rogan

Download it for free here

On a more serious note, Dr. Dan Merrick has just released the protest song Wrong’s Not Right, a catchy update on classic 1950s-style country gospel. When’s the last time you heard a country gospel song that mentioned beer – and not in a disparaging way?

On an even more serious note, Dietrich Klinghardt just wrote a beautiful, haunting Appalachian gothic-tinged protest song, Angels Come:

A wealthy clique controls our leaders
And the internet, the media west and east
Are these billionaires ordained by God to lead us?
Behind their eyes we sense the mark of the beast

Last year, Lydia Ainsworth recorded a trio of songs from her Sparkles & Debris album with a string section. If you liked the Pretenders’ Isle of View orchestral record, you’ll love the new version of Halo of Fire: “Allow your thoughts to roam as freely as they desire”

On the mysterious side, Terra Lightfoot and Jane Ellen Bryant team up for Somebody Was Gonna Find Out. Find out what? It’s a good story, open to multiple interpretations. Two acoustic guitars, two voices: see if you can figure it out.

Let’s wrap this up with Elle Vance‘s La Beaute de la Vie – with Tayssa Hubert on vocals – which is part Edith Piaf, part reggae. It works. Go figure. This is the French version; sadly, the English version is autotuned.

Slashingly Lyrical, Darkly Amusing New Americana From Goodnight, Texas

Goodnight, Texas play sharply lyrical Americana with a mix of oldtime acoustic instrumentation and snarling electric guitars. Frontmen Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf can both spin a great yarn and have a sense of humor. Is their new album How Long Will It Take Them to Die – streaming at Bandcamp – a reflection on the plandemic? Actually not. It’s a mix of cynically amusing pre-bluegrass sounds, bristling highway rock and Nashville gothic. It’s also the best album of the year so far for 2022.

The first track is Neighborhoods, a 19th century front porch folk march with imaginative acoustic/electric production values. It’s a Tom Waits down-and-out scenario without the cliches:

My days are little neighborhoods where different people live
Never two to intertwine, not a damn to give
For anyone or anything outside of what they know
My days are little neighborhoods and in between I go

Hypothermic is a Nashville gothic masterpiece, a creepy fugitive’s tale and an instant contender for best song of 2022:

Gas up
With a credit card
And an alias
That I learned this morning
Dead flies
Round the heat lamp
No receipt, please
Hide face from the camera
Peel out
On a snowbank
But I landed
And I’m back on the highway
Northbound
To Alaska
Hypothermic
Where the sun can’t find me

The band follow that with Gotta Get Goin’, a funny stomping open-tuned oldtime string band tune with a surprise ending. They take a wryly choogling boogie tune into newgrass territory in Borrowed Time: Chuck Berry and Tony Trischka make a better mashup than you might expect.

The stark down-and-out ballad I’d Rather Not is a desperado scenario as Wilco would have done it in the late 90s. Don’t Let ‘Em Get You could be a ramshackle early Okkervil River-style revolutionary anthem, or could be lockdown-specific: “Comes a day when they shed their skins and everything you ever caught up in believing in.”

Jane, Come Down From Your Room, a sad country waltz, is a witheringly detailed portrait of trans-generational trauma. Lead player Adam Nash’s pedal steel sails over the spare layers of acoustic guitars and banjo in To Where You’re Going, bassist Chris Sugiura and drummer Scott Griffin Padden holding the shambling tune on the rails.

Solstice Days – “When the sky was overcast, and the present felt like the past, walking down a road that says Do Not Enter” – has a slow sway and a persistent sense of longing. The closest track to standard-issue 90s alt-country here is Sarcophagus: “Was it time for for examining or was it time for celebration?” is the operative question.

“If I’m gonna catch hell for speaking my mind, I might as well make it count,” is the big message in the album’s centerpiece, Dead Middle, a metaphorically loaded highway narrative which absolutely nails the existential questions and divergent realities screaming out for resolution in 2022. The concluding title track turns out to be a cynically humorous number with lingering hints of western swing.