record reviews february 2015

THE HEADLOCKS

Most Golden Goose (Self Released)

headlocks

A Staten Island combo fronted by the nasal whine vocals of Rob Carey, they mix it up on their sophomore album, sliding between the shimmery tumble and shuffle opener Dream While You’re Awake, the 60s Brit R&B of the Jagger swaggering February Roses, a whistling tropically pop In The Water, lazy goodtime southern country drawl Everybody Wants A Piece of the Pie the sparse acoustic ballad Starting Over and a jugband Stayin’ In The Game.

At 15 tracks, the Golden Goose does lay a few eggs, there seems little reason to have included the four brief samples and the Stonesy prowling Running Free and the harmonica blowing r&b (Why Don’t You) Get It Right are stodgy fillers, but when it does spark they’re certainly worth a gander.

Mike Davies

THE PORTER DRAW

The Porter Draw (Self Released)

porter

Hailing from Albuquerque, the alt country five piece have been flying the flag for the New Mexico roots music movement since 2007 and now, after being released back home last year, their self-titled third album with its songs about living in unforgiving times is being given deserved wide exposure with both a physical release and a no minimum name your price download from their bandcamp site.

They set out their stall with the rolling, mandolin and ringing guitar fuelled new depression opener Judgment Day, the broken life of the folksy Softened Soil with its sprightly banjo frills and Russell Pyle’s dusty drawl and the bluegrassy toe tapping Farmer’s Prayer, a song that addresses the defiant struggle of maintaining a life on the land in the face of encroaching urbanisation.

They feature a train rhythm version of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire and it’s testament to the band’s own material that it’s probably the least interesting number here, firmly in the shadow of slow waltzing look to the horizon Out On The Highway, One More Night’s border-country muscular reflection on a musician’s life on the road and the bluegrass romp through County Lines breathless tale of hard times, domestic abuse and murder.

Drawing on lives lived in the choke of rust belt decay and dreams, the album’s strongest numbers sit side by side, the plangent Steve Earle/Wilco-like alt-country This Town with a gravelly Pyle observing “There’s church here every Sunday and a few folks go to pray, but most of us think God has moved away”, and, gathering from acoustic strum to a raging roots-rock fire, Bitter Pill where, the mill shut down and a young family to support, the protagonist turns to desperate as he swears “With my heart on my sleeve and a gun in my hand I gotta take back what’s owed to me. Because you can’t eat a guarantee.”

After all this grimness, the album ends on a relatively playful (and sexual innuendo laced) note with the old school picking honky tonk country blues of Home Fries as the singer, a trucker perhaps, finds his attention torn between the waitress and the food in the diner. Quite how a band this impressive has managed to stay below the Americana radar for so long is hard to fathom, but, with a new album, More Trouble, already to go for later this year, they surely won’t remain merely local heroes for much longer. Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2015