CHURCHWOOD comes from the dependable Saustex label, who handle a roster of bands set on bending country music into fun new shapes. I thought CHURCHWOOD’s self-titled album would continue this penchant for adding influences to country (especially since the lead singer, Joe Doerr is a veteran of late-80′s roots rockers THE LEROI BROTHERS), but CHURCHWOOD set it’s sights on livening up contemporary blues. That’s a noble goal, as I mostly can’t stand any contemporary blues (think Joe Bonamassa, as an example). It also falls somewhat outside the parameters of the RKH blog, but it’s a well-executed album, so I thought some folks might want to know about it.
With this CD, you get excellent musicianship, great production, whipsmart lyrics full of nearly psychedelic wordplay and even snatches of French and Spanish, as well as dips into a more dark and gritty neighborhood welcome to fans of “traditional” blues.
The arrangements of the songs tend to dial in “progressive rock” influences, which loses me and might lose some of the more blues/rock and roll/rockabilly purists out there. The band mentions CAPTAIN BEEFHEART as an influence, which seems pretty relevant to this point… lots of jams, harmonized lines and time shifts make this unrecognizable as “blues”… which is good, in the way that it is original and gets away from the dreck that much of post-Clapton blues guitar has become, but doesn’t grab me by the guts and shakes me the way more direct and urgent guitarists do.
While the guitarwork can lose me at some points, Joe Doerr’s vocal delivery is what excites me the most. He posesses a fantastic voice for this genre and this band – deep, resonant and with a lot of punch.
My favorite track, bound for my ipod for repeated listens, is a badass brawler called Pity the Noose. It fits into a little genre of songs I like to call “Bad News” songs, in honor of Johnny Cash’s ode to tough sons of bitches. Dylan’s “Wanted Man” works in the genre, took, for another example. Pity the Noose acquits itself nicely as a paean to tough bastards. Any psychobilly band looking for a fresh cover material may want to check it out – it seems custom-made for a super-charged version.
Even if your notion of what you like about Texas has more to do with Ernest Tubb than Stevie Ray Vaughn, you still may find something to like in the prog blues of CHURCHWOOD.