Touch And Go
By: Eric G.
The Black Heart Procession has cemented its place in the hall of doom over the course of its past three records with a dramatic blend of country, blues, and heart-wrenching soul mining. Each song is a slow journey to the center of despair. The band’s old western ghost town image is bolstered by lyrics about loneliness and heartbreak. The music is sparse and brittle. Acoustic guitars pluck amidst ghostly keyboards, echoing electric guitars, dirge-like piano lines, weird, eerie sound effects, and the band’s claim to fame- the saw. The vocals howl and whine over the minor chord progressions with a sense of utter desperation.
It’s a long, lonely trip from the beginning to the end of Three. Be prepared to stare off into the distance for the rest of the day after immersing yourself in this record- it’s hard to fight your way back to reality. The Black Heart Procession never lets up. Sure, certain chord progressions sound similar- they all seem to have the same melancholic gait, but the consistently dark tone keeps you drawn in. The lyrical stories sew everything together and, amazingly, avoid the obvious, easy targets and cliches, particularly on “Till We Have To Say Goodbye” and “A Heart Like Mine.”
Vocalist Pall Jenkins clearly has an obsession with his heart. It’s black and broken, and he’ll tell you about it. It’s the way he tells you about it, though, that’s interesting. Jenkins has a presence beyond his straining yowl. Like Johnny Cash or Will Oldham or Bob Dylan, he has one of those rare, authentic-sounding voices that lets him bleed his sadness dry. He and bandmate Tobias Nathaniel were both in Three Mile Pilot, but they’ve carved out a very different niche with this band, obviously. It must be grueling to take this music on the road and pour out your heart night after night.
“We Always Know” is certainly melodramatic enough to kick off the band’s third album. The sluggish pace begets a haunting tone, and Jenkins moans painfully above the ominous piano: “life came and forgiveness was gone/was it all to see the light/did you come back from the quest/was it all to see the light in your own dreams you say/I guess I knew/I always knew.” It may not look so bleak on paper, but you should hear the way he sings it- it’s straight from the core of his guts.
The rest of the record follows suite. It’s slow and sad and beautiful. You can’t really go wrong with any of The Black Heart Procession’s records, though. It’s not like the band has taken great strides musically from one release to the next. They’re all equally haunting and sad. It’s just a matter of how much misery you can take in one sitting.