Friday, 22 April 2016

Record Review - Freakwater

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday April 22.


Bloodshot Records

Their first record in more than a decade sees stalwarts Freakwater back to their dissonant best, an album that rumbles with a menacing intent as it lurches left and right, sometimes straight and true, mostly through gnashed teeth as it tries to birth itself onto some old bar room floor in time for last call. 

Based around the vocal harmonies of Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin, as it has been since the band's inception in Louisville in the late '80s, Scheherazade grows from country roots (The Asp and the Albatross, Skinny Knee Bone, Missionfield), but manages to branch out into '60s-era psych (Down Will Come Baby), eerie gothic (Falls of Sleep, Ghost Song) and backwoods grass (What the People Want). 

A crack session band, among them the Dirty Three's Warren Ellis contributing haunting fiddle and flute, flesh the sound out as Bean and Irwin concentrate on their intertwining voices – a combination that sometimes soars, sometimes fights in the dirt but always makes an odd sort of sense. Which in a way, encapsulates the entire album. One of the best modern interpretations of country music I've heard.

Samuel J. Fell

Friday, 15 April 2016

Record Review - Black Stone Cherry

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday April 15.

Black Stone Cherry

Album number five from Edmonton, Kentucky, hard rock band Black Stone Cherry bursts from the gate like a Derby frontrunner, a manic and riff-laden collection of modern hard rock tunes, running the gamut from headbanger’s delight to more introspective and soft-edged pseudo-balladry.

Opener, ‘The Way Of The Future’ is, simply put, one of the most effective hard rock songs I’ve heard for an age. All bristle and thunder, it brings to mind Soundgarden in their prime, vocalist Chris Robertson channeling Cornell to a tee. ‘In Our Dreams’ is equal part Nirvana and Clutch; ‘Shakin’ My Cage’, despite some softer moments, doesn’t let up on the assault.

Kentucky does stumble here and there – tracks like ‘Long Ride’ (a rather trite ‘rock ballad’) and the lacklustre ‘Born To Die’ seem out of place and just plain beige by comparison. However, closer ‘The Rambler’, also out of place due to the fact it’s an acoustic guitar / fiddle track, is a surprisingly poignant end-point. Robertson’s voice is right on, it’s a track which settles and calms, chills you out post-riffage. Throw in a cheesy-but-solid version of the Edwin Starr / Temptations classic ‘War’, and you’ve got yourself a winner of a southern hard rockin’ album.

Samuel J. Fell