Album Review: Rattlesnake Choir - "Walkin' The Wire"

Album Review by Martin

Well, I like half of this album. Borra has a knack for writing slow, sad songs that really capture a slice of life; beautiful metaphors that really speak to the listener. The Rattlesnake Choir does a wonderful job of backing up these little gems, staying back out of the way so that the heartfelt vocals can grab you and take you on a journey.
 
However, I could say the opposite when Rattlesnake choir tries anything else; I just wanted to get back to a slow sad one. The upbeat songs here just don't do it for me, feeling like they lack rhythmic energy, and aren't emotionally convincing lyrically or instrumentally. Borra seems to twang a bit too much on these too, sometimes to the point where I have difficulty understanding the words.

This album was recorded live (with minimal overdubs) and this method can be great if the group is really locked together and feeling it, which I think is what happened with the sad songs--their dynamic shines here. But they seemed to have a hard time feeling other emotions during the session, and maybe this is why I'm not convinced when they try to rise out of their depression, loss, and sadness. The recording is fairly well done, however, though it could be a bit 'warmer'--the guitar sounds kind of thin especially. Also I would have liked a real piano to compliment the other acoustic instruments, when it's really exposed the electronic sound is kind of jarring. The fiddle is wonderful, and I'd say watch out for Miranda Mulholland in the future. Her lead vocal on Halls of Folsom is beautiful, and left me wishing for more of her!
- Carousel is a touching song of love, change, and parting... A touching metaphor of life--sometimes we're just going around and around, each time with a different person.

- As I mentioned already, Halls of Folsom is beautiful; the sparse texture lets voice shine through, and the backups really well done too. Next time let's hear more of Miranda!

- Ghost of The Rodeo shows again the magic of the slow sad songs; the feeling is there, and everyone and everything just clicks. The saw is a surprisingly fresh element, a haunting addition in a song about a living ghost. It ends with a nice musical tension and release, leaving you satisfied and complete.

- Flight of The Bumblebee? I must admit I was surprised to see this on the track list, and expected the worst... how could a group who doesn't do so well with faster tempos and tight rhythms pull this one off? But Rattlesnake Choir's mambo/jazz rendition of this classical show-off piece is surprisingly great, letting the piano have some fun.

- Go To Sleep: this one is almost there, I would have preferred to have Borra and Miranda switch vocal roles, so I could hear more of her on lead. But something about the lyrics just don't grab me, and end the album on a strange note.

Heart Full of Love, It Wouldn't Mean a Thing, You Play The Thunder, Sailor Bill, A Little Hard Work, Chicken Bone, and Wastin' My Time are the "other" songs on the album which I'd rather skip to get to the good stuff. It seems like everything is lacking on these, right from the lyrics, which range from cliche to just boring, to the instruments, which sound tired and destroy any excitement that an upbeat tempos could have created. I'd welcome an album of songs that showcase what these guys do best: the delicate, sad, and tender. As for the rest, I'd say stick with what works and don't try to do what you don't feel, because it's just not convincing.

But that's just my opinion.

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