Country Music People December 2018 - Page 44

albumreviews DOCFELL & CO Heaven, Hell Or Oklahoma SARAH VISTA Killing Fever  1/2  Peace Maker / End Of The Line / Slim Says / Tough / A Different Drum / In Your Eyes / Mean Marie / Three Chords / Molly Fields Cemetery / Beulah Land / Home On The Hill Producer: David Percefull Self release 41:34 Killing Fever / Get Three Coffins Ready / Madame Moustache / Now You Are Sleeping / Better off Never Than Late / A Day Late a Dollar Short / Belle Starr / Hell at High Noon / Dead on Arrival / Shoot, Luke or Give up the Gun / I Wish You Hell / The Fortune Teller Producer: not listed Gallow Romantic Records 35:00 This is the third studio album from Oklahoma six piece DocFell & Co; released a couple of months back it has as its principal concept songs from the afterlife. Singer John Fell describes it as “a journey down a dead end street” and explains two of the songs were written during funerals. A strange concept perhaps and I felt, in places, that concept may have over-ridden the original song idea, but it is nevertheless a well produced album of solid Outlaw country with a few other influences thrown in for good measure. The opening track is a well constructed modern day cowboy ballad the lyrics of which contain interesting 2nd Amendment parallels. Slightly more upbeat is End Of The Line, a simple but effective truckers song with some tasty steel guitar running right through it and taking us into Slim Says which describes music critics as “Bloodthirsty wolves that ain’t got no heart” and takes an angry swipe at Nashville and the album continues in similar vein. In the past year or so UK audiences have been exposed to a lot more music in this modern Outlaw genre, so it isn’t different anymore; it isn’t exciting because we haven’t heard the like before, and whilst every track on this album has something good about it I’m not sure enough of them have sufficient to lift them above a whole bunch of other good music currently being released. Aside from Peace Maker and the rockabilly influenced Mean Marie I felt these songs could have appeared on half a dozen albums I have listened to in the last six months by different American bands who all have a following in their home city/state and all play in their local bars, and I would have felt exactly the same about them. If Outlaw is your thing – and it is mine – you will enjoy this album, but I doubt it will be at the top of your playlist for long. Chris Smith “Your uselessness astounds me/You’re as empty as a can,” sneers Sarah Vista on A Day Late A Dollar Short, a track on her debut album Killing Fever. No, she’s not singing about The Shires (“Britain’s top country duo!”), but I can’t think of a British-made country album this year that offers a more satisfying antidote to that insipid duo and their saccharin “A-a-h….A-a-h’m gonna love you till a-a-h dies.” Killing Fever doesn’t have a gushy, lovey dovey moment on it. Its female gunslinger- themed revenge songs ooze blood lust and black humour. The title track simmers with atmosphere, and its crisp lyrics (“I’ll shoot you down, boy”) set the tone for what follows. Vista cleverly reworks Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs territory on the waltz-time number Belle Starr, even to the extent of Grady Martin style acoustic fills, courtesy of Jeff Mead, (whose work on steel and twangy electric guitar makes a crucial contribution to the album’s mood). The accordion is a nice additional touch. Madame Moustache, another outlaw whose “first love was a double-barrelled gun,” has an incredibly catchy banjo, and a “jeering” laptop steel guitar figure. It shows you can still use the old narrative song formula and come up with something fresh. Get Three Coffins has mariachi trumpets, ghostly chorals and a slow, doomy tango rhythm. I Wish You Hell is pure spaghetti western, musically quoting from the theme tune of For A Few Dollars More. Vista is clearly steeped in the lore of the Wild West and Western movies, and stylishly decks herself out in cowgirl garb, yet there’s a bolshy, bang on modern “I don’t take no bull from men” sentiment that is very 2018. If she sounds worldlywise, it is no surprise. In previous incarnations she was a punk songstress, and also a member of a short-lived North London rockabilly band Viva Le Pink. Unlike some bandwagon jumpers, though, I sense her feeling for country is genuine. I would have loved to hear Rose Maddox doing the previously mentioned A Day Late A Dollar Short, for instance. Now You Are Sleeping has an infectious Johnny Cash train-style rhythm, and the instrumental breaks on that one are the type Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours might have pealed off. Yet the lyrics have real sting. Lines like “Strychnine in your whisky seemed appropriate/for the rat like you that’s left me such a mess” brilliantly subvert listener expectations for the tried and tested honky tonk format. If there’s a flaw it’s maybe this album’s lyrics would sound better delivered by someone with an authentic American drawl. But in twelve extremely entertaining, witty without being too smart by half, tracks, Vista has marked out her territory in emphatic style. Vista vs The Shires? She’d shoot ‘em down, boys. Jack Watkins 44 cmp - DECEMBER 2018