Saturday, June 28, 2014

Violent Femmes - Hallowed Ground

A year after their self-titled debut album (click here for my review of that 1983 release), the Violent Femmes (Gordon Gano, Brian Richie and Victor DeLorenzo) returned to the studio to record Hallowed Ground. Release thirty years ago this month, today we'll take a look at this record which charted at number 56 in Australia.

Joining the trio on this record were Mark Van Hecke (piano and organ), Tony Trischka (banjo), Christina Houghton (autoharp), Peter Balestrieri (vocals and saxophone), Cynthia Gano Lewis (vocals), Drake Scott (cornetto and sackbut), John Zorn (alto saxophone and clarinet) and John Tanner (clarinet).

Side one begins with "Country Death Song" which, as you would expect, is done with a country rhythm and style. The result is a good fusion of country and punk on a dark tale of a man pushed over the edge until he snaps.

"I Hear the Rain" has a neurotic, paranoid energy to it. The vocal arrangements on this short track make it interesting.

"Never Tell" clocks in at over seven minutes in length, the longest track of the set. The band actually has space to explore things musically.

The guys get religious with "Jesus Walking On the Water", another country-infused track. Gano, a devout Christian, plays the fiddle on this one.

"I Know It's True But I'm Sorry To Say" closes out the half with a light pop-country number. It easily sounds like it could have fit with any of the crossover country that I heard on the radio in the 70's as a child.

The title track "Hallowed Ground" opens side two. I like the mix of the piano and guitars on the opening of this one; they mesh very well.

"Sweet Misery Blues" has a sweet, laidback Southern charm to it. This reminds me a bit of when the Rolling Stones did the occasional country song on their albums.

"Black Girls" focuses interracial coupling. The music has a jazz improvisational element to it.

The record closes with "It's Gonna Rain", the story of Noah and his arc.

This was my first listen to Hallowed Ground. I might not have liked this much back in 1984, but the me of today absolutely enjoyed it. The Violent Femmes are batting a perfect game so far with the last album and this one. It is definitely one I plan to pick up as soon as possible.

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