NEW COUNTRY REHAB
2011 – Self Released
New Country Rehab is a new band on me, although their live performances seem to be making them ever more popular in their native Canada. This is their debut album and contains some really dark songs with five being originals penned by band members, one traditional song, one Springsteen cover and three by Hank Williams. Their own songs are generally pretty good but of course the covers could shoot them down in flames if they had failed. Fortunately, despite not quite having the quality of the covers, they don’t fail and actually make a decent job of blending their own songs with the covers, with Bruce Springsteens State Trooper being the pick of the bunch.
This is a four piece band made up of John Showman on fiddle and lead vocals, James Robertson on acoustic guitar, Ben Whiteley, double bass and Roman Tome on percussion and vocals. All are tremendous musicians although I think most will find John Showman’s driving fiddle to be the lynchpin of their slightly unusual sound. There are better vocalists than Showman but he does imbue these thematically dark songs with a sense of real drama. He shares co-writes with Robertson on three songs, writes one himself whilst Robertson is responsible for the other original.
In many ways it was brave to cover three Hank Williams songs and their rearrangements generally work pretty well. Ramblin’ Man is one of my personal Hank favourites and their attempt at the classic eeriness is actually pretty good. The strange, treated guitar tones and the atmospheric fiddle help but several of the other effects were not really necessary. The log train is another eerie Hank original, this one being more successful with it’s plucked fiddle and hauntingly atmospheric steel and dobro solos whilst on Mind your own business handclaps give plenty of impetus, then dobro and sawing fiddle come in and give the song a ‘Devil went down to Georgia’ feel but with more venom! On State trooper they bring a really dark, almost harrowing feel to this Springsteen original. Bass drum beat and churning repetitive guitars raise the tension and then after the sirens comes the sinister fiddle! A really good version of a classically eerie song! Whilst not quite being a match for the exalted company of Springsteen/Williams their own songs certainly don’t let this album down. The album opens with Angel of Death a well written and performed dark song about the inevitable conclusion that awaits us all and Bury me which follows it takes the sentiment to its next step with a driving beat keeping the edginess high! Cameo is an almost classic lost love country song with their unusual instrumentation of sawing fiddle, tremendously atmospheric double bass and guitar. The melody could have done with a little more variation during the verses, but still a pretty good song and The last hand includes some tremendous instrumental interplay giving this powerful gamblers cheating song a really strong edge, particularly in the repetitive chiming guitar and fiddle. The traditional Train 45 is a tremendously powerful instrumental with the incredible sawing fiddle and compellingly pounding bass coloured by percussion and guitars ensuring that no one will look on this as a piece of instrumental filler!
Whilst not quite being the great album that I think this band are capable of, it really is a good first effort with a lot more pros than cons! On first couple of listens I wasn’t over impressed but it is most definitely an album that is a ‘grower.’ Some of the experimental effects, of which there are admittedly not that many, don’t quite work but they bring a tremendous sense of power and spookiness to just about all of the songs on this excellent debut album. I really hope that the album sells well and that they continue as a band for a long time, because in the end they do have a great deal of originality, something that not too many bands can claim!