Dark Folk / Death CountryMusickReviewsUK tunesUnderground

Dog Hand String Band – Slow Poison (a digital release review)

Originally I wanted to review this fantastic record earlier, but when you’re driven by your OCD, you have to start from the beginning. Thanks God I don’t plan to review The Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead! Wait, what…?

Just kidding, of course. But if you’ve read my review of Dog Hand String Band’s debut album, then you know I’ve fallen in love them from the very first listening. So, it’s more than obvious I’m gonna review the new material here as well.

12 songs long album opens a beautiful, otherworldy “Dead Stalks” and if you don’t love DHSB yet, you will love them, even for this one song. Absolutely fantastic piece of music, the slow upping of the atmosphere is almost undescribable, you have to hear it.

The second track, “God At The Wheel”, with the ska saxaphone and the catchy melody keeps my interest on. And I am not really into ska at all, but then, with that Clash-esque chorus, they completely got me. Sick!

And just as you think – I’m curious what else they can do – here you go…”Hell Knows” and another twist! Don’t be afraid, we’re firmly in the great sounding, banjo-lovin’ blues, but this track, the third in the line, again confirms this one ain’t an ordinary album. What’s even better, unlike some dark folk/death country/americana albums out there, this one can definitely apeal to the mainstream circles of listeners. And that’s a good thing.

With “Fuck You and The Horse you Rode in On” we’re getting into that blues vibe, you know, that stuff almost everyone can identify. The title says it all really and all it’s left here is to enjoy the nice sounding song, which I can quite nicely imagine as a part of some movie soundtrack, you know, in those scenes when guys beat the total shit out of each other.

“Plague Dogs”, on the other hand, betray (a little) the punk background of guys in DHSB and I can’t get rid of the feeling of a little déjà vu – not that guys repeat themselves, not at all, but the song sounds quite similar to punk anthems we love. Basically, that what punk song would be like when covered by blues band. And that’s not a bad thing, ladies and gentlemen. And as a punk song, it’s the shortest track here (but hey, we’re talking of almost 4 minutes)

6 is half dozen. And #6 here is “Big Buffalo” and the atmosphere from the opening track return, I love that background, almost subliminal, feeling of tensiness, the uneasiness…that’s death country. Again, I would definitely see this in some horror soundtrack, this one is made for that! And from 3:45 mark, the intensity is getting even more tight, until it dies out…I love stuff like that.

With song numbered by 7, again, it’s a change in tune, “This Is My Rifle” is total opposite of the previous moody, atmospheric track. Imagine the scene when you hop happily on the street, and with the sax, this would be proper British movie. Yep, that’s the spirit here, so if you are a filmmaker, make notice (you hear me, Guy Ritchie?) But the ending, with about 10 seconds of silence, when the instruments went silent, ruins the overall great feeling of it. Just my two cents, you know.

And all of a sudden, like waving a magic wand, we’re transplanted to American West proper with “Here In A Hole”, with a nice banjo play (OK, that’s might be nothing special for country enthusiasts, but for us, chance listeners, that’s magic) and catchy chorus. Although lead vocal is strong enough to carry the weight on its own, the doubling with backing vocals is just fantastic.

Did you think this will go on forever? Well, here’s the surprise, the second longest track on the album, which gave it its name – “Slow Poison” – won’t carry you on the pleasant tune, on the contrary, starting with the disharmonic, unkempt tunes, kind of a blues noir. But unlike the previous ones, which grab you with the very first listen, I didn’t like this one. Not at all.

Luckily, “Happy Family Nightmare” saves the day. Oh, the violin! See, this is the music I love from DHSB. Straightforward, getting deep down in your soul, invoking so much memories and moods… there’s nothing bad you could possibly say about this song. And what is surprising, the chorus has brought up the spirit of Amy Macdonald’s earlier work (just because I don’t follow her latest stuff, to be precise), namely “Footballer’s Wife”. Kill me, if I know why. But I have a sweet spot for Amy still, so this is a positive thing.

Shuffle again, please! Yep, although I hate being shaken from my dream-like state of contemplating caused by the previous song, I appreciate the ever-changing nature of songs, so one is kept alert to what’s coming. Not bad an approach. “Poor Mans Grave” is yet another longer composition with shouty vocal and weird, but amazing music…and that violin part after 3:00 minute mark, oh my…I always wanted to play violin, but my musical ear is somewhat…non-existing, lol. But at least I can appreciate good music when I hear it. And I hear it here.

“Annie There’ll Be Hell”, the last song of the album, is – again – a comeback to the great plains of America and fitting finish to a great album. It’s the loving stroke of your woman after coming home after the hard day at work, it’s the refreshing drink of water when you’re thirst. And maybe an unsuspected climax of the album.

What else to say – support this band and if you are able to catch the live, do. I am looking to do the same.

Bandcamp: https://doghandstringband.bandcamp.com/album/slow-poison

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Rudolf Schütz

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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