With pedal steel on nearly every track and a song about
Jesus, it’s tempting to see this as the Sweetheart
of the Rodeo of Scott McCaughey’s career. Except it’s not a country album,
really. It just sounds like one. There are plenty of highlights that could just
as easily have worked in the chamber pop setting he’s favored on recent
releases, especially “The Disembowelers.” Even “Dark Hand of Contagion,” an
understated lead-off track whose acoustic guitar strum couldn’t be more country
if it wore a Marty Robbins Stetson, never feels like someone “doing” country.
Maybe it’s the lyrics. Or the twang-free vocals. Maybe it’s
the fact that what he meant to make here was a girl-group record (which
explains the heavy use of female backing vocals). But even when Colin Meloy
takes the wheel on the album’s sweetest melody, “Scott Walker’s Fault,” it
comes out sounding more like Scott McCaughey than anything, with pedal steel as
this year’s mellotron.
Standout Tracks: “Dark Hand of Contagion,” “The Disembowelers.” A. WATT