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July 2014
Cadillac Flambe
"Old American Law
"
mp3

Some bands have the ability to create music that reaches into a chasm of sorrow and affliction, exposing the deepest of wounds. With its latest release Old American LawCadillac Flambe boasts nine heavily weighted tracks that escort the listener through calamitous musical compositions, and tragic tales told by the mesmerizing vocals of husband and wife Kris and Havilah Bruders.

 
Since its previous release, Eli’s Porch, Cadillac Flambe has had to adjust its sound. The band’s harmonica player James “Pappy” Garrett, who was an integral component to its dark Americana blues approach, died in a car accident during the making of the 2011 EP. Shrinking down to a four-piece, the band has shifted in a decidedly more rock ‘n roll direction, still retaining its rootsy nature but packing a more substantial punch.
 
Ushered in by Kris Bruders’ signature gritty blues guitar sound, “Shakin’ Baby” sets the album in motion, highlighted additionally by Michael Payne’s massive but calculated drum work and Dave Duly’s perfectly in-the-pocket bass playing. On this album, Payne and Duly add a collective rhythmic wallop unheard in previous recordings, pervading the tunes with a rock and R&B heartbeat.
 
After the first track, you’re likely in for the ride, which allows Cadillac Flambe to pull you in to its turbulent descent.
 
This emotional tailspin careens to its greatest depths in “3 Bullets,” the album’s longest and most powerful track—one split into two distinct acts. In Act I, Havilah Bruders tells the story of a desperate mother trying to feed her child, reaching out to the church, the government, and the bank, and is turned away by each. Act II arrives in the middle of the song, which slows from a steady 4/4 to a haunting 6/8 groove, as she discloses the news of her child’s death. A chilling anguish is felt as Bruders’ voice rages, a deliriousness is experienced as she transitions from a quiet whimper to a grief-stricken roar, also revealing the song's final crux: the woman has murdered the three entities that indirectly caused her child's death. Her soul and gospel background is most noticeable here, as she carries us through each scene and makes us feel her misery and despair, measure by measure. It’s also apparent in “Sweet Chariot,” where she takes us through a woman’s frenzied fear of impending death, into her answered prayers of serenity and light.
 
Most of the songs on Old American Law were penned by Kris Bruders, whose own vocals have a mystic, commanding, but sincere quality to them. Take “Father to Son” for instance, a narrative about a father’s beliefs and pressures onto his son. Bruders’ vocal delivery at once contains the father’s threatening tone and the son’s subsequent harsh, casual defiance. In the album’s title track, his voice characterizes the overall personality of the album. His words and the dusty Delta blues sound of his hollow-body custom magnesium guitar convey the voice of an uncompromising outlaw. Bruders’ authoritative, booming vocals—often coupled with his wife’s harmonies, sometimes impassioned, sometimes a simple adornment to his own—and the unique gravel of his guitar dig into the meat of each song.
 
Plenty of bands write songs about death, family strife, social issues, and religious conviction, yet few are able to execute it as effectively as Cadillac Flambe does in Old American Law. The throttle of the rhythm section, the bedraggled, melancholy guitar tones, the dissonant piano chords, and the soulful vocals push the message of each song to the forefront. The LP, which was tracked, mixed, and mastered at Little Class Records by Keegan Smith, is the strongest manifestation of anything the band has released to date. 
 
--Michelle Bacon

 

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Album review: Appropriate Grammar - Lies and Stories

Album review: Appropriate Grammar - Lies and Stories

There’s some music that’s intricately intertwined with the feeling you get from a weekend whiskey binge. From the initial burn of the first drink to the last sip of the bottle, the emotions and thoughts that drive that binge are have long been subjects for great storytelling and songwriting. Appropriate Grammar’s release Lies and Stories is the musical equivalent to a weekend whiskey bender, if there was a universe where you could drink whiskey all weekend and still speak with eloquent clarity.

This 10-song set rambles on like the smartest heartbroken drunk you’ve ever met. Lyrically speaking, this is one of the better releases I’ve heard in awhile, so much so that I stopped during some songs to go back and catch a line again. With varied stories of fighting all night with a significant other ("Lover’s Quarrel") to dealing with an existential crisis ("Chosen Children"), the lyrical palette of this album reflects a wandering spirit coming to terms with the human experience. And it rocks.

Fast-paced shuffles by drummer Steve Gardels and jangling, well-placed guitar hooks by Alex Dunsford provide an inspiring platform for Nick McKenna’s cool and seemingly calculated vocal delivery. Bassist and vocalist Claire Adams adds color to many of these songs, particularly "High and Lonely," which gives the album some breathing room with a beautiful duet. In a weekend binge scenario, this is the song you’re listening to when the bottle runs dry, it’s time to go to bed, but you have no idea where you are or how to get home.

Not many bands can pull off rollicking, melodic songs that are emotional, smart and fun without coming off as being pretentious or downright aggravating, but Appropriate Grammar seems to have a formula down that works well for what they are doing, like an Old-Fashioned served with just the right amount of bitters.

-Mike Tipton

Mike is a KC native that enjoys new music and playing with his band, Molly Picture Club. He also enjoys people watching and documentaries by Ken Burns.

 

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