Snakefarm Records [Release date 12.06.20]
Church’s edgy, non conformist image smacks of authenticity, and when you hear songs like ‘The Outsider’ and ‘Devil Devil’ you wonder how long his love affair with the genre’s conventions will last. These are songs that separately and collectively drill down into stratas of hard rock and metal that other country music artists wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. And lyrically, they crack a whip of outlaw defiance in the face of Nashville’s ultra conservative stance, an almost mythical town now, which seems eternally impervious to outside influences.
Once upon a time in Tennessee an album like this would’ve been a double vinyl, with each side allocated a separate subject matter and style.
At a minimum, side A would be allocated to ‘Damn Rock’n'Roll’ and ‘Darkside’, two rolling thunderclouds of redemption and spent emotions, looking for a safe place to land, but not finding one.
‘Broke Record’ and ‘Roller Coaster Ride’ would kick of Side B. Two arena rock songs that carry an emotional weight. The perfect marriage of poppified stadium rock and lived in experience (which is the essence of country music, right?)
Side C’s foundation tracks would be ‘Cold One’ and ‘Talladega’ – the subject matter is almost self explanatory. Both songs mine traditional country tropes, bars, beer, women and cars.
Those afore mentioned outriders – the title track and ‘Devil Devil’ would devour much of Side C. Two magnificently apposite closers.
This extended reissue of the album comes with two bonus tracks. Church’s screwed down vocal, sitting in behind clattering rhythms, swings from a deep throated growl to a painful shout on his cover the Fab Four’s ‘Come Together’. It’s different. The other is an extended version of the title track. Adding one minute to Church’s new sonic signature.
“The Outsiders”, the album will split opinions. Church is pitching at a lot of targets here, and is bound to miss a few, but it’s unarguably an album that makes you listen. And even if you don’t always like what you hear, there’s plenty that you will. ****
Review by Brian McGowan
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