Friday, February 5, 2010

Souled American - Six Feet Of Snow (Around the Horn,1990)

Chicago roots rockers Souled American pioneered the alternative country movement of the early '90s before the music boasted either a name or a fan following. Even as kindred spirits like Uncle Tupelo began making commercial inroads, Souled American slipped through the cracks following the demise of its record label, and still today the band's true influence on a successive generation of bands remains sorely undervalued. Singer/guitarist Chris Grigoroff and singer/bassist Joe Anducci formed Souled American in 1987 after first collaborating in the Normal, IL, group the Uptown Rulers; guitarist Scott Tuma and drummer Jamey Barnard completed the lineup, which quickly honed an expansive, compellingly idiosyncratic approach to rock that reduced the idiom to its basic elements -- country, folk, and bluegrass chief among them -- then reassembled the parts to forge an otherworldly music quite unlike anything produced by the band's contemporaries. In 1988 Souled American signed to Rough Trade to issue its cult classic debut, Fe, arguably their most difficult and far-ranging effort. Flubber appeared a year later and was supported by a tour opening for Camper Van Beethoven. But shortly after the release of 1990's psychedelic Around the Horn -- an album comprised largely of covers.
Withdrawing even more into their own private universe - their popularity, never great, was near minimal at this point, with the collapse of their then-label Rough Trade in America accelerating a slide off the musical radar - the four members of Souled American persevered. Around the Horn shows the band now fully master of a unique kind of Americana, here much more melancholy and gently downbeat than ever before, guitars more apt to ring softly or solitarily than anything else. The dub and r'n'b touches prevalent on the first two albums aren't as apparent here, but what the band loses in relative breadth it more than makes up for in atmosphere. Adducci and Barnard's rhythm work is very late in the evening and moody, and works wonders throughout. The two get to let relatively loose at one point on "Luggy Di," with Barnard's shuddering, non-4/4 time drumming and Adducci's bass both cutting through. Crigoroff's vocals are subtly changing at this point the country twang and ache which invested them on Fe still remain, but are smoothed just a touch, his high vocals a bit more lost and alone. If Will Oldham wasn't listening in at this point, that would be a bit surprising. Almost half the tracks are covers or reinterpretations of some kind, including one done by Adducci's country songwriting mother, "I Keep Holding Back the Tears." Little Feat's "Six Feet of Snow" also gets a Souled American treatment, the most jaunty thing on the album, while the traditional "Durante's Hornpipe" gets a brilliant, short rendition that is quietly uplifting. The slow fading chime of "Rise Above It" is also quite something, another Souled American highlight. Guest performer Jaimo adds muted, low trombone to "Second of All," investing the slow, mournful number with an added dignity.

Six Feet Of Snow

Six feet of snow coming through my radio
It`s raining in stilettos from here clear down to Mexico
My hands they`re numb from hanging on that steering wheel
They`re frozen tight, hope the wind don`t blow me off the road tonight
Don`t you know the ice and snow is sneaking in through my windows
Don`t you know how much I hate to be so cold and so alone
I`m coming home

If it wasn`t for the lines that wind side by side
I`d be lying next to her, next to her tonight

Sweet New Orleans that`s where my girl she waits for me
Hair so long and eyes so green
She`s the prettiest girl I`ve ever seen

Don`t you know the ice and snow
Is sneaking through this boy`s window
Don`t you know how much I hate to be so cold and so alone
I`m coming home

If it wasn`t for the lines that wind side by side
I`d be lying next to her, next to her tonight

(Lowell George/Keith Godchaux)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to find an email address for Chris grigoroff. He used to live with us before he joined uptown rulers at ISU. Any help would be appreciated.