Pin It
Favorite

Steady Your Rifles High 

by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & t's fitting that Band of Annuals will be featured in the May/June issue of No Depression, the final print edition of the august but foundering journal of alt country music. An absolutely brilliant six-piece that gets little press even in its hometown of Salt Lake City, Band of Annuals represents the falling fortunes of a genre that once commanded entire magazines of coverage but is now most often mentioned in online tabloid stories that begin with "Ryan Adams started a bar fight last night...." It deserves better than it gets.





Band of Annuals plays pure, roots-based country music that melds wending pedal steel, harmonica and flits of Wurlitzer with literate, complex rhyme schemes filled with photorealistic imagery shot in tones of regret and perseverance. It's some of the best music to come from a genre that often feels long-toothed at age 20. As might be expected from their latest album's title, Let Me Live, the best songs are those that wrestle with the specter of death and its companion, the yearn for love. "The Ballad of Casey Jones" is beautiful, as is "Don't Let Me Die." "Blood on My Shirt" though, is the jewel, providing one of the more gripping post-war portraits ever set to song. "I don't know how I ever got here, been against this war / a blindfold stretched ear to ear, as I hear them yell out the call / 'Boys, steady your rifles high / use a steady eye / put that bullet right through his heart / let us all watch him die.'"





"Blood on My Shirt" isn't an anti-war song, though. It's about vanished love, about how even survival is bittersweet in its wake. "Giving your heart is suicide," singer Jay Henderson concludes, "but this time it kept me alive."





Alt Country -- like its roots at the birth of both country and (to a lesser extent) punk -- hasn't vanished completely. It never could. The form is too perfectly melded to its subjects. The pedal steel is a faultless pair for the alcoholism, despair and defeat of the dust-swept West. The twanging harmonies, especially when paired, create the kind of aesthetic beauty that makes peeling away layers of pain bearable. It's easier to look at the wreck of your life when the soundtrack is sung by a spry tenor (in this case, Henderson) and a powerful alto (vocalist/keyboardist Jeremi Hanson).





In addition to playing a symbol of alt country's nadir, there's a chance Band of Annuals may be the genre's ticket back to a state of grace (or at least prominence). In addition to coverage in No Depression, the band is currently on the cover of Slug Magazine, a regional music and sports magazine that occasionally acts as a bellwether for national musical hipness (the mag wrote about the Raveonettes, Rilo Kiley and Nekromantix before almost anyone else did).





What alt country lacks is a scene. Its remnants are scattered and isolated. Single names. Band of Annuals is the kind of band, like those pioneers from almost 20 years ago, that's good enough that a movement could be unified around it. If anyone is going to acquaint a new generation of angry yearners to the plaint of pure country, these guys have a good shot.





Band of Annuals with Kid Theodore and the Globes at Caterina Winery on Tuesday, May 13, at 8 pm. $6. Call 328-5069.
  • Pin It

Latest in Music

  • One Becomes Two
  • One Becomes Two

    The Hop! continues on while Pinnacle Northwest, the new downtown all-ages music venue, opens up
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • Past Masters
  • Past Masters

    Skull Fist brings classic heavy metal into the 21st century
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • Broken Yet Hopeful
  • Broken Yet Hopeful

    Kent Ueland has moved on from Terrible Buttons with a solo effort
    • Jan 21, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Spokane Symphony SuperPops No. 4 and SpIFF Posterize

Spokane Symphony SuperPops No. 4 and SpIFF Posterize @ Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox

Sat., Jan. 31, 8 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Luke Baumgarten

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Film


Review


Music


Tribute


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation