Forget all the rhinestone encrusted Nashville country stalwarts with their shiny boots and fringed silk shirts, country music is at its best, to my tastes at least, when it is threading gloom and melancholy through its chords and lyrics, creating a brooding apocalyptic vibe, going a bit gothic around the edges. And that is something that Deeper Than Hell does brilliantly. It plays with a recognisable country-rock groove but it drives it through a desolate, apocalyptic soundscape, one of mournful harmonies, raw, garage rock guitars and primal rockabilly shuffle beats. Perfect.
The album it comes from West Towards South contains a number of other such magic moments. Three-Quarter Moon is a world weary blues groover worthy of Mr Waits, Gallows is a windswept death-dirge and is possibly what a David Lynch road movie would sound like if it was distilled down into a single song and Geronimo is a strange, fractured, gypsy waltz, as much an traditional Eastern European lament as it is a take on country music. There are many less bleak moments to, Sea of Cortez is a deftly picked rocking chair on the porch song and Ballad of Ambrose and Cyrus is a lovely, soft and sentimental song of leaving and loss that perfectly completes the album’s biographical song cycle.
Come to the album for the dark stuff and stick around for the wonderful tracks that allow the light to shine through the gloom between them. That’s what I did.