Let’s get our cards on the table early - I adore this album. I haven’t thought a whole lot about why, so this will be me thinking out loud while listening to it (my usual caper anyhow). Maybe it’s the near instant familiarity imparted by the Slow Country sound. The opening chords of “Stars That Lead Us” sound at once fresh and similar to many other tunes, many great tunes. That rolling riff and the laconic, aching vocals of Boyd Shropshire create such a lovely sense of prettiness and sadness, an intagible melncholy that’s found in many of my favourite Neil Young songs. This song has been floating around in me all week long and I’m not sick of it at all. The themes here are age old-love and loss, light and darkness, pain and pleasure-but there’s a harsh edge to some of the lyrics that remind me of Jeff Tweedy at his most acerbic (slower songs from “Being There” and “Summer Teeth” being an apparent touchstone)-
If you were counting on me; you’d be wasting all your time
No it ain’t me babe. Vocal duties are shared by both Shropshire (a former member of Kurt Vile’s band who has a great low country voice, reminiscent of Jay Farrar) and Chase King, who has a softer, higher voice used to great effect on the War On Drugs-esque “On and On” and the chilled closer “Moon Won’t Glow”-
I never believed in not giving love; I never believed in not getting high; I never believed in giving me more time
This album is a great display of two musicians striking a fertile creative partnership; that sweet and sour, salt and pepper combination we’ve heard so much about over the ages. This connection can be heard in King and Shropshire’s beautiful harmonising and, on a broader scale, in the terrific balance the album achieves. Man oh man, “Song Was In The Mirror” is a heart wrencher, and oh so gorgeous-
Dancning slow; dakness floats behind you; a little light; seems to glow around you
Shropshire describing a girl dancing in (with?) light in this song is wholly evocative and absorbing; a scene and feeling perfectly portrayed in music. There’s a great weight to these songs, they don’t expand past their own their own horizons. A sure sign of fine craftsmanship. While most of the album has a subtle, crushing sense of sadness, there’s upbeat numbers to counter this. “Land I Love” is a classic country rocker akin to the best of Uncle Tupleo while “Down The Road” is a road trip song of sorts that glows with optimism, but doesn’t totally relinquish the pain…
Don’t know how to tell you this; don’t know the reason why
There’s little lines like this that flourish throughout, something new resonates with each listen. There’s a dark, wondrous depth here. Perhaps the line that hit me hardest on the album though was the refrain of “One of the Few”:
Tragically you might be one of the few…..left out.
But who? Left out of what? All of us I believe, left out of what we think we are deserved. All of us feel like we’re missing out on something. Where’s my payday? Where’s my true love? Where does this rainbow end? It may not be the songs intended meaning but it’s what I heard. These songs don’t just long for love but for meaning, for direction and for purpose. Small songs casting big existential questions - not an easy thing to do. Slow Country make it sound easy.
I’ve used a few comparisons here and I know that’s lazy - that’s because I’m lazy. I was also reminded of early My Morning Jacket on a few numbers and a line can be drawn to Portland’s Richmond Fontaine, and you could probably list a dozen other country rock acts. The thing is, Slow Country-to get all romantic-make you think they’re the only band in the world. I listened with fresh ears and an open heart for what this album is : beautiful country rock and roll that’s rich in beauty, sadness and hope.