Something I’ve come to love over the course of the year I’ve been writing for Resounding Footsteps is the discovery of new genres that push the boundaries of what I understood as music. I’ve found hundreds of bands, dozens of labels, and dozens more genres that I didn’t even know existed before. One such genre is gothic country. I supposed I always knew it existed on the periphery. I knew it was there in theory but I never paid enough attention to really understand the music, understand the narrative possibilities within the music. Even now, after several months of research, listening, and theorizing I know I am still far behind on the subject. However, even in my unwisdom (yes I made that up) I have been able to understand things. Black Bird Rising, a three song self-titled EP, is probably the best place for me to start.
And what a start! Even though the album is only three songs and under twenty minutes of music, there is a lot to unpack here. The music is slow and moody, it’s the kind of music you would think to find in smoke filled rooms behind the bar after midnight. It’s heavy but it’s not, it has an acoustic power that lends it weight but doesn’t give it a heavy sound. I hope that makes sense to someone besides me. There are only a few sounds on this album, and sparse as they might be, they fill the room up perfectly. The music of Black Bird Rising doesn’t need to be loud, it needs to be profound. And by the gods it is! It’s a slow burning work of art, the sounds echo and reverb but not in the way that we know ambient music and sounds do. It echoes in a natural, organic way. The sound is earthy; it has a feel about it that can only come from earth herself. Going with that theme, the name for the album, and the project, Black Bird Rising is given an even greater significance. There is now a link between the earthy tones of the album and the spiritual name of the project. It’s a full, recognizable and undeniable circle.
The vocals are a selling point for the album, actually. Even though the first time I listened to the album I wasn’t a huge fan of them. They take some getting used to but I urge you to take that time. Once all the sounds sort of blend and meld in your head, the vocals are irreplaceable. They are thick and hypnotic, they are droning and buzzy against the smooth strum of the guitar. Together they for a perfect balance of rough and smooth. After a few listens I began to like the vocals more and more to the point I found myself humming along with the music. The vocals are those of the apocalyptic cult leader, full of sinister wisdom and entrancing melody. Once it begins playing, it’s hard to turn off.
The entire atmosphere feels as though it’s a missing Johnny Cash era album. It has that same sort of power and gravitas encapsulated into a deceptively simple frame. It’s the picture of life that we don’t often want to acknowledge. It’s the world of pain and melancholy but even in that sort of drug addled, dirty world there is a sort of beauty. It’s a beauty that can only be found by those that refuse to look away and have the soul of a poet. Black Bird Rising uncovered some gold in the steam filled alleyways. I love it.
The music is ritualistic, yet deceptively so, it doesn’t feel as though it’s a ritual album. It’s an urbanized ritual, I suppose you could call it. There’s a structure to the album, a labyrinthine structure that fits the harsh yet melodic dichotomy of the album. You can miss this album, no matter what kind of music you enjoy, you will find something to love in this album.
Highlight: Fire into the Cosmic Sun
If you enjoyed this try: Carl S Williams, Me and the Man, The Sword
Support the artist!
- Fire into the Cosmic Sun
- Far From the Sea of Devils
- Black Bird Rising