There’s something intangible about Country Westerns vision of rock. It’s raw, frayed, like an abrasion that refuses to heal. Cover it up, cast it aside for a moment, but there’s always a bit of burn to remind you of its presence. The band’s sound is lodged between southern rock and a long shuttered ideal of indie, leftover from the Dutch East India days. The easy touchstones lie in bands that feel like the bar has always been their preferred stage — Uncle Tupelo, Lucero, The Jayhawks. With help again from Matt Sweeney, himself no stranger to the cult of rough edges, the band approaches their second album with a seasoned hand and a road-worn resolve.
It’s hard to get a feel for what’s more immediate when Country Westerns hit the speakers, the power trio alt-country, barrel-cured to potent proof or Joey Plunkett’s graveled rasp. Plunkett’s vocals hit the heart like he’s seen a hundred paydays gone short and every ounce of that grievance is channeled into the catharsis cut to tape. The songs are solid — as befits a band culled from members of Silver Jews and The Weight — but without that 80 grit growl it’s hard to say if they’d quench the conscience quite this hard. The debut found the band hammering out the mold that would forge Forgive The City. The clay that casts the album remains the same, but this time around they carve quite a few extra details into the finished form.
The loose careen of “Grapefruit” skidding like tires just trying to hold to the pavement, the hair-matted sweat of “Cussin’ Christians,” and the clenched-teeth tension of “It’s A Livin’” act as battered n’ bruised counterpoints to the rumpled exhales of “Speaking Ill of the Blues” and “Money On The Table.” The latter is something of an evolution for the band, winding up like it’s going to explode, but riding that knife edge til the very end and licking its teeth for someone to make the first move. The band tumbled out of the box already seasoned and saturated with the kind of steel most bands couldn’t cultivate in decades. On Forgive The City, Country Westerns offer up the kind of classic that would have rattled out of cassette decks in every college town and soundtracked the jukebox on a hundred last call clean-ups. It feels like an album that’s already lived ten lives and it’s not bound to leave the turntable around here for the whole year.
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