Joe Savage’s Songs Worth Singing
A century removed from the way Hank done it and decades after the heyday of Townes, Willie, and Waylon, and we’re still arguing about who will be the one to carry the C&W torch. Sure, mainstream artists such as Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell are writing solid twangage, but Simpson’s new album is closer to Pink Floyd than the Red Headed Stranger and Isbell doesn’t seem like he is turning his back on his Americana roots anytime soon.
Enter: local guy Joe Savage, whose new album, Songs Worth Singing, is 12 tracks of throwback C&W that call to mind Bill Mack’s classic “Midnight Cowboy Trucking Show.” Opening track “Your Drinkin’” sounds straight out of a Wild West saloon. It’s a classic barroom shuffle complete with upright piano and a locomotive drumbeat pushing the tempo throughout.
Savage’s ability to switch vocal tones as a song dictates is reminiscent of a singer with twice as much experience. Whether it’s the Johnny Cash-like baritone he flashes in “No Fear” or his storyteller’s tenor a la Jerry Reed in “Fine Line,” Savage finds the right voice for each moment.
The album hits full stride on the sixth track, “Gasoline,” A Marty Robbins-esque waltz that allows Savage to showcase his ability to break hearts as a balladeer. Accompanied by Abel Casillas’ zydeco accordion and Chucho’s Katie Robertson on backing vocals, Savage paints a picture of the frailty of love that makes Sylvia Plath seem upbeat.
Savage turned to his Near Southside neighborhood to put together players to record Songs Worth Singing at Eagle Audio. Along with Casillas’ squeeze box –– Johnny Mack ably played the washboard, Danny Ross was on keys, and Mark Weger laid down the bass. The quartet was joined in the studio by a veritable who’s-who of Fort Worth musicians. Blues guitar legend Tone Sommer, Telegraph Canyon’s Chuck and Tamara Brown, Leon Bridges’ sidemen Andrew Skates and Jeff Dazey, Luke McGlathery, and Alexandria Rhea are just a handful of the folks who lent their talents to the record.
The album release party will be Sat., June 18, at Lola’s Saloon with Convoy & The Cattlemen and Gypsy Playboy. –– Jasun Lee
Stone Machine Electric’s Sollicitus Es Veritatem
In February, Arlington doom duo Stone Machine Electric released Sollicitus Es Veritatem, the follow-up to last year’s The Amazing Terror. The reason why the Weekly is finally giving it a review is because the songs are mostly very long.
I kid, of course, but if we’re being honest, the band does manage to stretch five songs of down-tempo stoner rock into almost an hour’s worth of music. If you’ve ever made it to the end of Sleep’s doom metal masterpiece Dopesmoker (an album made entirely of the title track, itself a hypnotic journey of heavy riffage lasting 53 minutes), Sollicitus Es Veritatem is a comparatively breezy –– if said breeze were caused by lava flowing out of a volcano on a dying planet. There’s all of the genre’s hallmarks of plodding, nodding tempos and effects-slathered blues riffs repeated over and over until they assume the function of an atavistic, meditative chant.
Vocals are spare –– guitarist Kitchens’ voice will appeal especially to fans of Wino or Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorf, but the guitar parts are the real attraction. With songs as long as these, there’s a risk for superfluous jamming, but every noise seems pre-meditated. The songs’ lyrics deal with esoteric, couchlocked ideas like dreams versus reality, as well as the mitigated reality foisted on the public by media and positions of authority.
With all the phased-out solos and tight rhythms –– courtesy of Kitchens’ partner-in-doom, Dub –– Sollicitus Es Veritatem gives the listener plenty of waypoints in songs that top the 14-minute mark. The comparative speed increase of penultimate track “Demons” (if it were a car, it would be going from second to third gear, in other words) has the greatest dynamics of the five songs, proving SME is more than a one-trick, one-tempo pony. If you plan on watching Cosmos or something similar, get good and dabbed and listen to this afterward. –– Steve Steward