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Tag: americana rock

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.

Faithless Town Play One of the Year’s Best Pro-Freedom Events in Nashville on the 16th

Atlanta band Faithless Town went viral with the scorching freedom rally footage in the video for their latest protest song, Live Free, a catchy, swaying mashup of Americana and Oasis. But they’ve been making good albums for a decade. Frontman Gene Owens got his start in the early teens playing Americana rock with a strong populist streak and honed his sharpshooter lyrical focus in the years that followed. They’re playing in the middle of an inspiring multi-band bill on July 16 at the Cobra, 2511 Gallatin Ave. in Nashville with the best of this era’s protest songwriters, Five Times August and folkgrass/redneck rock guitarslinger Campbell Harrison. Freedom fighter and journalist Ryan Cristian from the Last American Vagabond is also on the bill; cover is $15.

Faithless Town’s latest album Into the Light is a work in two parts: the first volume, streaming at Bandcamp, is a mix of four-on-the-floor anthems, folk noir and defiant singalongs for the noncompliant. But their previous album, Empires – streaming at Spotify – is just as good, and prophetic in places, especially considering that the band released it just weeks before the global totalitarian takeover in 2020. It’s as persistently uneasy, and immersed in regret and angst, as it is catchy. In Owens’ world, empires are as elusive as they are oppressive.

They open with the title track, a blistering two-guitar anthem that speaks truth to oligarch power with echoes of dark 60s Laurel Canyon psychedelia. “I spent my whole life sitting at a crossroads,” Owens confides restlessly in the anomie anthem Shot in the Dark, a harder-rocking shot at what Tom Petty was doing in the late 80s.

California Come Home is a gorgeously chiming, bittersweet reminiscence that wouldn’t be out of place in the Matt Keating catalog. “You’re wasting your time,” Owens soberly warns his wage-slave friend in Waste Away, icy spacerock ambience rising and receding behind him..

The existential angst reaches fever pitch in God’s Love as the band shift from stadium stomp to lavish ELO sweep. Then they nick the verse of a famous grunge tune until straightening out in the next song, The Return.

They slow down for the swaying, enveloping 6/8 ballad Out West: “All the things you want are still out of reach,” Owens cautions a nameless fortune-seeker. Likewise, the layers of guitar echo and resonate through Four Walls, a chronicle of what could be a marriage disintegrated beyond repair.

O Brother, a slowly building chronicle of betrayal, is a blend of Americana and late Beatles. The band return to amped-up Petty territory to close the record with 30 Years.

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.

Epic Americana Anthems and Sobering Narratives From Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters

At a time when most artists are struggling to get any music out at all, Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters are on a rare creative tear. They’re one of the very few bands in history to release two consecutive double albums (the Grateful Dead did it twice). Their bristling, epic Live at the Grey Eagle, recorded in their hometown of Asheville, North Carolina is one of the most compelling Americana releases of recent years. They pick right up where they left off with their vast new release The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, streaming at Soundcloud.

It’s a concept record: the first disc is generally upbeat, the second quiet and immersive. “Sometimes you’re drowning in the deep blue sea and you need the devil to pull you out,” is Platt’s explanation. There’s a lot of poignancy in her painterly narratives, none more than in the album’s opening track, New York. For anyone who’s been driven out of the city in the last two years, or is staring down that prospect, it will rip your face off. There’s a point right after the first chorus where pianist Kevin Williams takes a tentative little downward riff and leaves it dangling, unresolved, an elephant lost to memories.

Burn – as in “burn it down” – is a low-key Dusty Springfield-esque Memphis soul tune anchoring one of Platt’s signature, aphoristic portraits of rural anomie and discontent. She details the quick disollution of a couple who were way too quick to tie the knot in The Devil, a honkytonk shuffle that Matt Smith colors with his spare, sailing pedal steel.

Likewise, Dallas affords Williams a chance to color the downcast ambience with his vintage Nashville piano lines. There’s subtle mystery in Saint Sebastian, a surreal summer vacation tableau set to a tiptoeing mashup of vintage soul and Tex-Mex.

Bassist Rick Cooper and drummer Evan Martin kick in harder in the catchy backbeat anthem Great Confession, Smith’s tantalizingly brief Telecaster leads ringing out over Williams’ organ. Platt’s cynical sense of humor reaches redline in Girls Like You, a propulsive reminder that determined, individualistic women haven’t always been regarded as role models.

Platt reflects on the legacy effects of girls who can’t resist the wrong guys in Eurydice, a low-key oldschool country ballad. “I didn’t drink a bloody mary on the plane because I wanted you to see me how I was raised,” Platt’s emotionally conflicted narrator recalls in Perfect Word, a gorgeously bittersweet, brisk requiem. She winds up the first disc with Desert Flowers, a swaying cross-country tale that looks back to late 90s alt-country songwriters like Kim Richey.

Disc two begins with Open Up Your Door, an angst-fueled vintage Emmylou Harris-style ballad, just Platt’s vocals over Smith’s steel and Williams’ sparse electric piano. The band return cautiously for the similarly regret-laden Another Winter Gone, then slow down even further for Rabbit, a hypnotically swaying, gloomily imagistic portrait of rural decay.

Smith’s dobro lingers over Platt’s gentle fingerpicking and Williams’ judicious piano in Reverie, one of the more wryly funny narratives here. “They burned the city you loved…they talk about mercy, but you ain’t seen her face,” Platt sings in This Night, a defiant call to rebuild that may reference the BLM riots of 2020.

Platt keeps the drifting, starry milieu going in Even Good Men Get the Blues, lit up by a gorgeous Williams organ solo. She offers hope amidst disappointment in Always Knew, a front porch-flavored love song, then brings back the organ and angst in Lessons in Gravity, a makeup ballad.

The band sway their way through Only Just to Smile with a mid-70s Fleetwood Mac vibe and close this long, evocative album on a guardedly optimistic note with There May Come a Day. Their next affordable gig is May 25 at 7 PM at Potters Craft Cider, 1350 Arrowhead Valley Rd. in Charlottesville, Virginia. Advance tix are $20.

 

Starkly Powerful Tunesmithing and Loaded Metaphors on Abigail Lapell’s New Album

“Time may judge this a classic,” this blog enthused about Abigail Lapell’s 2019 album Getaway. Raves like that as rare here as integrity in the Justin Trudeau cabinet. The small handful of albums which have earned that distinction include Karla Rose Moheno‘s Gone to Town and Hannah vs. the Many‘s All Our Heroes Drank Here, to name two of the best. How well does Lapell’s latest release Stolen Time – streaming at Bandcamp – stack up against her previous achievement? It doesn’t always have the same seething intensity, but Lapell’s songwriting is strong, and she has an excellent band behind her.

She opens it with the hypnotic, sparsely fingerpicked, subtly aphoristic Britfolk-flavored Land of Plenty. Dani Nash’s mutedly ominous, swaying drumbeat anchors the second track, Ships, Christine Bougie adding snarling electric guitar and sparse lapsteel alongside violist Rachael Cardiello and bassist Dan Fortin. It’s a metaphorically loaded departure ballad echoing a big influence in Lapell’s work, Sandy Denny.

Lapell moves to piano for Pines and its allusively ominous nature imagery. Scarlet Fever has stark oldtime blues inflections and plaintive viola from Cardiello. With “silver needles on the wall,” is this a subtle lockdown parable? Maybe.

All Dressed Up, a nimbly fingerpicked acoustic tune, may also have post-March 2020 subtext: “No way out of here, wake me up when the coast is clear,” Lapell instructs. I See Music, a stately piano waltz spiced with Ellwood Epps’ trumpet is next: “There’s no danger in a major key, there’s no harm in a harmony,” Lapell asserts.

She goes back to guitar for the similarly graceful Waterfall and follows with the album’s title track, Stolen Time, a swaying, crescendoing anthem lit up by Bougie’s incandescent lapsteel. “I dreamed I saw my baby, sewage in his veins, a rotten apple in his chest,” Lapell recalls in the next track: is this a tantalizingly brief, disquieting shipwreck tale, or is there more to the story?

“Dance in the ashes, gasoline and matches” figure heavily in the otherwise lilting, catchy nocturne Old Flames. Lapell winds up this often riveting, enigmatic album on an optimistic note with I Can’t Believe. It’s inspiring to see one of the sharpest songwriters in folk-adjacent sounds persevering under circumstances which have been less than encouraging for artists in general. Barring the unforeseen, Lapell’s next gig is an evening performance on May 21 at Paddlefest in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Slashing Hard Country and Memorable Flyover America Stories From Kaitlin Butts

The title of Kaitlin Butts‘ previous album is Same Hell, Different Devil. That pretty much sums up the Nashville-based songwriter’s worldview. She comes out of a red dirt Oklahoma background, and she’s been around. Her new vinyl record What Else Can She Do is streaming at Spotify. She’s a fiery, expressive singer, a vivid storyteller and has a hard country band behind her who can rock out just as hard if the song calls for it.

Butts doesn’t wait fifteen seconds before she revisits the Devil in the album’s first track, It Won’t Always Be This Way. “Waiting for the first turn in my gut,” is how she puts it in this big, angst-fueled ballad, soaring over Joshua Grange’s flaring guitar leads and Justin Schiper’s pedal steel. It’s a great song: Tift Merritt got her start singing stuff like this.

Bored If I Don’t – as in, damned if I do, etc. – is a twangy, guilt-racked cheating song, propelled by bassist Lex Price and drummer Fred Eltringham’s swinging beat. Butts traces an all-too-familiar blue-collar story of slow decline in the album’s wistfully waltzing title track: “Her smalltown pretty didn’t play in the city too well/And the life that she thought would be heaven now feels more like hell.”

Jackson, a vindictive, blue-flame 6/8 ballad with a tasty steel solo, is a sort of sequel to the Johnny Cash/June Carter classic. “Mama says it’s like losing a child without the flowers or the casserole,” Butts explains in She’s Using, a searing chronicle of the opiod pandemic. It’s the best song on the record.

A month ago, this blog described the next tune, Blood as “a very subtle protest song disguised as a fierce kiss-off ballad” – listen closely and you will be rewarded. Butts winds up the record with an impassioned Nashville gothic cover of In the Pines that’s closer to Neko Case than that overrated Seattle band from way back when. It’s early in the year, but this is one of the small handful of best records of 2022 so far.

Defiance and Dread: Songs and Useful Information For the End of March

Today’s playlist runs from the ridiculously catchy to the tantalizingly allusive. Tunes first, then the news: click on artist names for their webpages, click on titles for audio or video.

First up is a Media Bear parody protest song (one of a growing bunch, most of them pretty hilarious, at the master page here). Today’s pick is their update on the 1976 C.W. McCall country-rap classic, Convoy. This new one has Pureblood and Rubber Glove going back and forth over the CB radio behind a pastiche of heartwarming footage from the Canadian trucker convoy to Ottawa. Meanwhile, the US Freedom Convoy is back on the road again, headed for Grand Park in Los Angeles just in time for the massive freedom rally there on April 10 at noon.

Catchiest song on this list is Tracy Shedd’s retro 90s sunshine pop song Going Somewhere. Nothing heavy, but it’s hard to get the jangle and swirl out of your head.

Dallas Ugly‘s Part of a Time is a catchy midtempo country tune, frontwoman Libby Weitnauer reflecting on what might have been but never was.

Hang in there with the DelinesSurfers in Twilight. It’s s a nocturne but not a surf song, and it takes awhile to get going. But this narrative of casual police brutality really packs a punch.

Staying in serious mode, here’s another good Sage Hana video, this time using Chris Isaak‘s Somebody’s Crying as a requiem for all the athletes murdered and maimed by the Covid shot. The cruel tagline is “I know when somebody’s lying.”

Delicate guitar figures flicker amid the enveloping gloom in Darkher’s latest dirge Where the Devil Waits. It really speaks to the relentless dread so many of us have experienced over the past two years.

Because music doesn’t exist in a vacuum, here are a couple of brief must-reads from the world around us. First, the irreplaceable Emerald Robinson articulates just how the Ukraine war is being weaponized by the Biden regime to collapse just about every supply chain in existence, including the food supply, as a pretext for instituting programmable digital money. This is not meant to scare anyone, just to underscore that we need to keep our eye on the ball, especially here in New York where raw materials for just about everything are imported.

And here’s Dr. Meryl Nass’s latest masterpiece, a concise timeline of how hydroxychloroquine was demonized in the mad dash to create a legal framework for the rollout of the Covid shots. Nass covers all the key dates, all the coverups and the essential study data; This is the Rosetta Stone of what become known as Solidaritygate and its aftermath. If you need a single comprehensive source that covers all the bases, this is it.

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.