I had never really heard anything comparable to Patti Smith before hearing Jillian Taylor of Ruby the Hatchet. PJ Harvey maybe but not really, not ‘raw’ enough. Miss Taylor has something extra, perhaps it is that wonderful raspy voice that, as Patti Smith demonstrated, works so well with a fuzzy guitar and simple ‘engine room’ drums. Being an Englishman the thing that struck me the most was the delightfully sexy American twang that flicks out with the intonation of each word, this is particularly apparent on ‘Black Tongue’ where she drags outs syllables over the pinch harmonics of an equally sexy-stoner riff. It is carefree and frivolous at times but with just the right amount of predatory growl. The vocals really shine through but do not get me wrong, the rest of the ensemble is far from weak - on the contrary we are of treated to instrumental sections full of vigour and ingenuity. The guitar solos are lovingly poured out with a smoothness of oil onto hard marble, with added phaser for interest. The simplicity of songs like ‘Can’t Get Him Away,' with the happy addition of supporting male vocals, so reminiscent of masterpiece ‘Rock ‘n Roll Nigger’ by Patti Smith, show that this four piece from Philadelphia understand that the song serves itself, Zen-like; it does not need to be forced with creativity and complexity. It is this facet that can create something really enjoyable and ultimately memorable.
Notable tracks in this excellent collection include ‘The Lean’ which, being a guitarist myself, unfolds like a masterpiece, successfully building a haunting atmosphere with sustained, acid tinged wails from the fuzz box. Bravo, John Scarperia. Also, the instrumentally led ‘Holy Father’ which is accompanied by a dry and airy Organ, has a beautifully worked arrangement. The track ‘Nowhere’ is gentle and clean, (I was at t i m e s reminded of the wonderful guitar of Johnny Marr) but holds a sad foreboding within its rhythmic chants: “You’re going nowhere...” It is an expression that could instill a terror within any listener, and if art is about evoking the most primal of emotions, then this track achieves an artistic high point for the album. Give your record collection a bit more depth. Go get this album.