The band fronted by Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are no strangers to being politically charged with their work.
While their previous album in 2016 American Band warned of the coming storm, this, their most recent album The Unravelling has been noted as its potent reply, the decimation, the wreckage and the aftermath as Patterson Hood himself has stated “all our records are political, but I’ve also said Politics IS personal,” with that in mind he goes on to say this record is very personal to him.
Not only from that point, but the band got to realise a dream recording their new album in Sam Phillips studio in Memphis with its rich echo’s enhancing the sound immensely and recorded in an analog format, on 2 inch open real tapes before mixing on a 70’s vintage console. Its left a very warm vintage sounding recording, one that will transpose well onto vinyl.
Initially the band recorded 18 songs for the album but have whittled it down to 9 tracks.
The opening track Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun,is a beautiful opener and is further developed by the strings of Kyleen and Patti King. I couldn’t help but find myself singing the ‘you can’t tell the darkness from the flame’ on the next track Armagedons back in Town that crashes in like a whirlwind. Thoughts and Prayers to me is an outstanding track and I felt several themes running through this, I can appreciate we all read things in different ways, but for me I was left feeling Thoughts and Prayers is a very easy thing to say, it’s almost a throwaway comment made by some rather than tackling the issues at hand. Babies in Cages with its sombre bass line, comes across as a very deep song about how our children are growing up in a very different world to those that the bands predecessors had fought for, it’s the state of the USA in the 21stcentury. Interestingly the demo of this track was recorded by Patterson on a phone while visiting relatives.
Grievance Merchants was written by Cooley about the rise of white supremacy following an acquaintance of theirs being murdered on a train, it becomes personal, as they sing ‘it’s selling old men back their dreams, it makes us question is this really the price of freedom?Awaiting Resurrection reminds us ‘there’s evil in this world as you feel it creeping up on you. There’s evil in this world creeps up from behind you. Classroom and church shootings and white supremacy murders, ‘while dirty deals are made to……’.
It’s a controversial album, but it’s one that’s put across in such a powerful way that made me think, it’s a dark subject matter, or rather matters as we are taken through the reality, as they guys say themselves its released during election year, is that a coincidence, I’ll leave you to ponder that one, what I will say though is it’s the longest time between album releases whether that’s a coincidence….
Feature image © Andy Tenille