Heartless Bastards: The Mountain
Gnarlier than a century-old live oak, Heartless Bastards' The Mountain plugs the Cincinnati-born trio's scorching postmodern blues — their debut, 2006's All This Time, could skin a cat — into the eerie backwoods folk of Greil Marcus's semi-mythical "old, weird America." Opener "The Mountain" is an epic Neil Young & Crazy Horse earth-mover, with psychedelic pedal-steel flourishes that help singer Erika Wennerstrom (who has since relocated to Austin) don the dire Old Testament mantle she carries throughout the album: "Spilt blood on this place / It only echoes true through all the days." The Mountain's 11 songs form a spellbinding account of Wennerstrom's attempts to reconcile her inner demons (the honky-tonkish "Nothing Seems the Same") and take a few shots at those who have crossed her path (splintering rocker "Early in the Morning"), set against an elemental backdrop of a "wicked sun" and "paper skies." Still, it's not without hope: "Things will work out soon / Things will come round again," advises the Stonesy "Hold Your Head High." The purest pearl, however — edging out Hank Williams hand-me-down (there's even a midnight train) "Could Be So Happy" — comes in spooky Appalachian waltz "Had to Go": "When you take the bark off the tree, it's standing stark." So is she.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.