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?
Yes.”

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

 

 

HOLY GHOST ELECTRIC SHOW – THE GREAT AMERICAN HOLY GHOST ELECTRIC SHOW

HOGO Cover

 

The Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show is the perfect title for this band’s debut album. The folks over at This Is American Music have again brought us something strange, new, and righteous. The record pulsates with wild imagery in the Southern Gothic style, mixing a very modern search for meaning in life with the blood and fire of the Old Testament. This six man band is at times a soul train running gleefully off the tracks, and a somber exploration of different ways to express melancholy and longing at others. There is no one song that would sum this band up, but any song is enough to make you want to see the band play live.

This is a rough album, and I mean that in the most literal way. The music is played from the heart. Each member of the band expresses themselves very clearly using their instrument, but clear does not translate to polished. They seem to be playing not just the song, but off of each other. The lyrics are raw, blunt and esoteric all at the same time. The instrumentation seems like an expression of the lyrics, and the lyrics feel like spoken word that would flow out regardless of the music underneath; two voices speaking in harmony instead of unison. I don’t know what it is about the children of preachers writing songs, but they all seem to have this distance, this worldliness, this fear of knowing so little about this world but too much about the next.

Around now is when I’d start calling out individual songs, but I don’t think that works this time around. The Great American is an album that is meant to be experienced as a whole, as a journey from start to finish. You get the impression that it isn’t meant to be completely understood by the audience, that there are some deep personal impulses at play. The weight of the record, more in the tone than in the music, can easily feel overwhelming and as such this isn’t a record that will stay on repeat for me, but that’s okay. Some experiences are meant to be given space, to be considered before they book is closed on them.

To sum up: Holy Ghost Electric Show is messy and forceful and a little disjointed, but driven and fantastic and new. Most of all, the music is fun. I won’t pass up a chance to watch them play, and you shouldn’t either.

‘And why do I take everyone so personal? 
Tell me why do I take everyone so personal 
I’m comfortable with my mortality 
But I don’t think my mortality is comfortable with me’

Highway Towns
Fireworks Over Fairview
Kerosene Heater Blues

Buy The Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show, digitally or in CD format, at their Bandcamp, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

As always, much love to This Is American Music.