Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Review: The Builders and the Butchers - Salvation is a Deep Dark Well (* * * *)

Country music has never been what I might call my genre of choice, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a good southern rock record when I hear it. The Builders and the Butchers, purveyors of fiery Southern-style twang have made such an album that has caught my attention recently, their sophomore effort called Salvation is a Deep Dark Well. The boys hail from Oregon, but you could easily mistake them for being native to Louisiana circa 1920 so convincingly rustic is their aggressive folk-rock sound. Their music is gritty and dark, with tales of hell, demons, and the devil himself shouted with earnest over guitars, banjo, and percussion comprising much of the album's eleven tracks.

Right off the bat, The Builders and the Butchers set the stage with the ominous introduction to "Golden and Green," which transitions into a burning bluegrass number with lyrics so wonderfully drab as to remove all hope of Salvation telling any kind of redemption story. The over-the-top narratives sung with fervor can become a bit wearying and a few tunes come across as too dramatic ("Down in this Hole," for example), but the band are obviously having a good time with the music and chances are you will too. The tunes are fairly uniform in their quality, but a few stand out as being especially great. "Barcelona," with its impressive horn arrangements and appropriately Spanish style, the driving, percussion heavy stomp of "Vampire Lake," and the rockin' group-chanted chorus on "In the Branches" are all genuinely fantastic moments, showing the band's impressive instrumental chops on all things stringed.

The Builders and the Butchers rock their way confidently through forty minutes of rough-and-tumble Americana with precision execution, each song featuring just enough bells and whistles to be interesting while avoiding becoming a distraction from the vocals. Given its preoccupation with war, the devil, and other unpleasantness, Salvation is a Deep Dark Well may not be a record for the faint of heart, but if a romp through the hidden and dark side of humanity sounds appealing, The Builders and the Butchers will be happy to see you in hell.

Golden and Green (Zipped MP3)

The Builders and the Butchers on MySpace