Thursday, September 25, 2008

See You in Rock 'N' Roll Heaven

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There's this thing that happens in Shakespeare. A speaker will pretend something for a while and then start to believe it. Especially in the comedies. People pretend to be in love and then fall in love. Or better yet actually talk themselves into falling in love on stage.

The point is that change often starts on the outside and seeps in. A couple of years ago, I started wearing western clothes. Now I find myself listening to country and even playing it sometimes. And so I present my first published country album review. Since the Oregonian doesn't publish their reviews online and I don't really read things in paper form, I have no idea how this looked when it came out on August 1, but here is what I sent my editors.

Album: See You in Rock 'N' Roll Heaven
Artist: Power of County
Grade: B+
Label: Union
Web site: powerofcounty.com

There's a point at which rock 'n' roll becomes so rock 'n' roll it's country. There you'll find this punk rock love letter to dusty, bygone days.

Power of County, which features drummer Andy Bacon Simard who also plays with local Psych rock train wreck Starantula as well as members of local bluegrass-picking failsafes Clampitt, Gaddis & Buck, looks like the Outlaws on paper. Guitar and drums are up front with banjo, pedal steel, upright piano and a washboard in the bed.

There are even multiple vocalists and each song has own mood and narrative. The lazy, mock-dark "The Ballad of Charlie Sad" which tells of the tale of "a community torn by greed and regret" over gold hidden in a grave follows the anthemic opener "Ain't Goin' Back to Jail." And the slow, down-and-out "Father, Mother, Son," asks that ultimate rock 'n' roll question, "What did I do last night?" before asking God for forgiveness like a cowboy who knows he won't get it, all in a forgivably affected accent indicative of the overall well-executed artifice.

Because in its production and details, See You is a rock album. The beat is a particularly driving shuffle and the electric guitar is hot on songs like "Love Machine" and "Love Me in Chains," rendering the vocals unintelligible in perfect punk fashion. While nothing about this album is terribly original, the tension of rock seeping into the country framework, like a ho-down with a rip-roaring band too drunk to realize they're too loud and too fast makes it irresistible.

Above: Power of County. Below: My bolo tie collection, minus one that's out for repairs.

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