Bohannons – Black Cross, Black Shield – 2015

Black Cross Black Shield

It was our own Autopsy IV who wrote about the Chattanooga, TN based Bohannons:

“Are they country? Are they blues? Are they 70’s glam metal?

Their newest release Black Cross, Black Shield doubles down on the ‘blues’ and the ‘metal’ in that recipe. It’s an ocean of a record: broad, in ceaseless motion, with depths as chilling as they are dark. The Bohannons’ sound is still unquestionably Southern, occasionally reminiscent of the Drive-By Truckers or Neil Young but most often a beast all its own.

Guitars ring out just as clearly as the vocals, with the pitch and tenor of the Bohannons’ voices seeming to match their instruments exactly. The bass and drums lumber along methodically like a horror movie villain, never in a rush but always lurking. Black Cross crosses from haunting to raging and back again, occasionally in the space of a single verse. The bluesy riffs of the piano in “Death and Taxes” evoke sorrow while the guitars scream in frustration, and the harmonica in “Red, White, Black, and Pale” is just as fearsome as the horsemen the song describes, riding herd over the rest of the instrumentation.

The lyrical content of the album weighs on you just like the melodies do. The title track conjures the existential fear that is being poor and seriously ill in America; the singer alternates between begging the listener to tell neither his mother or his God that he’s sick. “Dias De Las Muertas” is a condemnation of the immigration witch hunts occurring across the South, lamenting the loss of a friend to ‘zip ties and cold asphalt’ while churning guitars ride roughshod over a plaintive piano. Several songs deal with death and loss from various perspectives, never shying away from the reality: someday someone you love will die, and it’s not going to be easy. This album isn’t about giving up, though…the Bohannons are exalting in our instinct to push through obstacles, to remember the past, and not to give up on the future.

Black Cross, Black Shield isn’t a feel-good record, but rock’n’roll isn’t always a feel-good endeavor. The Bohannons put out a record taking an honest look at the hardships facing human beings on a daily basis, at the dueling despair and drive present in most people on most days. It may not be the easiest thing to face, but it sure does make for a good rock and roll record.

Pick up Black Cross, Black Shield from their Bandcamp or over on This Is American Music

Black Cross / Black Shield

Dias De Las Muertas (Day of the Dead)

Red, White, Black, and Pale