The Latest Shows We've Recorded

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Gunhands' Country Strange

I love the idea of the first full record that a solo artist or band puts out. More than any other time in an artist's or band's career, the first record is the one that's been bottle up for the longest, brewing, waiting, being honed nightly onstage and in practice. The songs that make the record are the ones that are extra-special; the arrangements have lingering been in the back of someone's mind for a long time. The words have resonated for years in bars, clubs, garages and backyards before finding their way onto the tape and ultimately the cd in your player. Nothing is an afterthought.

In my all-time favorite records list (I know, I sound like John Cusack and High Fidelity), there are a staggering amount of 'first records': John Prine, Warren Zevon, Guy Clark, TVZ, Todd Snider, Steve Goodman, Mike McClure, Matt King, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle and on and on. The bar is indeed high but getting to the line and putting it all out there that first and giving everyone a listen is about as gutsy as it gets. These are the sorts of things I contemplated while I listened to the Gunhands' Country Strange (site, myspace).

Having heard most of these songs live at some point over the last two years, I find myself most enjoying the 'extras' that aren't normally part of the band: the piano on "Pinball", the fiddle on "Mama Loves Jesus" and "Fixer-Upper", the pedal steel on "Ashville", the banjo on "Overpass Cowboy". Beyond that, I just really like the core sound of the Gunhands...drums, bass, guitars and mandolin. Simple and effective.

As for the songs themselves, they have seen the scrutiny of other artists and the crowds and come out bearing an originality and unique voice born of experience, be it of a life hard-lived seeking redemption or of lost love.

The highlight of the record is the hidden track "She'Ole" written by Senor Benavidez. Have a look here for the full explanation of "She'Ole".

(pronounced "Sheh-ole")[1], in Hebrew שאול (Sh'ol), is the "abode of the dead", the "underworld", "the common grave of humankind" or "pit".[2] In the Hebrew Bible, it is a place where both the bad and the good, slave and king, pious and wicked must go at the point of death.[3] Sheol is the common destination of both the righteous and the unrighteous dead, as recounted in Ecclesiastes and Job.


Suffice to say it's a fantastic tune pulling in some great thematic elements and really hammering the point of the song home.

I don't like to pick apart song arrangements or track order too much, so I'll close this review by saying that there's not a track on this record thats in need of a fast-forward or next-track button. This is a great record and very enjoyable listen, even after a few times through. Buy this record. And if you get a chance, getcherself to a Gunhands show though. See what it's all about. You'll find a band that's a part of what you find on Country Strange, but you'll also find a whole helluva lot more.

The Gunhands are:
Richard Benavidez on vocals and acoustic guitar
Lew Card on mandolin, vocals and occasionally electric guitar
Matt Felton on bass
Dave Litrell on drums
Nathan Mayes on vocals, electric guitar, and acoustic slide

No comments: