1 May 2004
Bullet the blue grass
There are no neutral colors in Kentucky. Positioned as it is, adjacent to the somnolent Midwest and the hard-luck Appalachians, yet very much a part of the South, it's a crossroads of cultures, and inevitably a crossroads of conflict: the sun may be probably is shining, but just the same, you're standing on dark and bloody ground.
The Shooting Gallery, an alt-country outfit from Louisville, knows all this stuff. Dark and Bloody Ground, the band's independently-released CD, fuses the blackest, bleakest mountain themes to spirited rockin' country backgrounds, tales of people you'd like to know more about, but you probably shouldn't approach too closely if you know what's good for you. "Harlan," set in that coal-mining county in southeastern Kentucky, explains the milieu:
Where the devil had cursed the land
And the company owned his soul
He had all that he could stand
Of digging in a deep black hole
Down in Harlan, bloody Harlan
Under conditions like these, the strongest and bravest of us might snap, and those of us who don't think of ourselves as especially strong or remarkably brave, which is most of us, feel for these characters, even as we wait for the retribution, divine or otherwise, we know is coming.
This particular musical river has been fed by many tributaries, some well-known, some less so. I hear traces of Neil Young and the Band, of Merle Haggard and Lefty Frizzell, and, perhaps unexpectedly, U2; while there's no The Edge-like signature guitar sound per se, John Ashley's vocals dance around the periphery of the notes, sometimes hitting them square, sometimes grazing the corners, like Bono soaked in George Dickel. "Northbound Train," written by guitarist Brent Thurman, evokes Jerry Lee Lewis at the end of his rope.
Of course, you should run right out and get this CD, and assume the risks that come with these twelve tracks. I'm not saying that this is a dangerous collection, that you're jeopardizing your immortal soul merely by possessing it. But late at night with the shades drawn and one too many drinks well, there's a reason that the last name in "Thanks to...", after all the friends and well-wishers and equipment suppliers, is Ed Gein. Dark and bloody, indeed.Posted at 12:08 PM to Tongue and Groove