The James Low Western Front
It doesn’t happen often, but once every few years I’m driving on the road to nowhere when a song comes on the radio that just makes me stop and say ‘Damn that’s good. Can’t wait to get home and find out what/who that is.’ In 2008 it turned out to be How She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower by Emmylou Harris. Recently it happened with Whiskey Farmer, the title track from the new album Whiskey Farmer by the James Low Western Front. It is one fine piece of work, musically and lyrically.
From the echoing hammer on’s in the title track to the sparse and haunting organ and drum work of A Little More Time the album presents one memorable tack after another.
The title track Whiskey Farmer evokes Steinbeck like visions of the dust bowl Great Depression like something out of The Grapes of Wrath. Consider the chorus:
The sun won’t shine, the rain won’t fall
The horse won’t pull my plough
I’m a whiskey farmer trying to grow champagne.
It could have been aptly titled Ode to Joad.
There are few better metaphors of hopeless dreaming.
Another super track is Thinking California with its oddly captivating sadness combined with a particularly quirky form of paranoia, the essence of which is captured in the comment on his ‘girlfriend:’
My girl keeps a shotgun leaned against the bed,
shell beneath the pillow; helps her sleep she said.
Any wonder he’s ‘thinking California?’
And, yes, there are some bright, upbeat moments, as both The Stars Don’t Care and Medicine Show provided a change of tempo and attitude, with their bright and airy mood and some real fun moments.
The music is hard to categorize. Some have labeled it alt-Country, but then isn’t that also alt-Classical and alt- just about anything else? It would best be termed it Country Folk as it certainly finds it musical routes in country instruments and form, but the story nature of the tracks, and the concept nature of the whole album move it into the Folk genre.
The only slight drawback is that there are only eight tracks. But, they are eight strong tracks, and once inside the CD player, IPod, MP3 will keep running over and over quickly getting back to whatever becomes a favorite. It does keep you wanting more and demands repeat plays. Addictive!
The music is available from Bandcamp as a Digital download for a mere $8. Easily worth the price.
Watch the video for ‘Thinking California’ at the James Low Western Front site.