Canadian Zeman’s last album, Ya Ain’t Crazy Henny Penny was a fine dust blown collection of songs that were like snapshots of hard lives lived in hard times. On Me Then You he continues in this vein with all of the songs well written vignettes, intriguing tales, a collection of short stories almost. However he’s all but abandoned the acoustic based ballads that featured heavily on Henny Penny. Instead a full-blooded band sound rings throughout with clanging guitars and driving rhythms pushing the songs.
Pushing The Stones which opens the album is a frantic pacesetter. Blair Hogan provides a big fat guitar riff as Zeman hollers. Until It Bleeds settles into a more relaxed groove but still packs a punch as Zeman delivers a Steve Earle like tale of an abandoned fool thinking about his departed lover. It’s delivered in a tender yet muscular style, Zeman sounds tough but hurt, the sound is almost country with pedal steel decoration but it swells mightily at times with a tough rock feel. The lyrics capture the bitter regret of the protagonist
“I put a hole in my wall on the day that you left
Just stood there watching blood falling from my fingertips
I still don’t know what I thought it might do
A hole in the wall don’t do nothing but stare back at a fool.”
Triple Crown maintains this quality with a portrait of a tough Texas beerhall. The band deliver another solid example of Earle styled rock and Zeman’s pen delivers expert sketches of the bar’s denizens
“He’s got hair to his elbows and snake skin boots
A rebel flag t-shirt and a jailhouse tattoo
He’s sucking on a Camel, blowing smoke rings around the moon
He’s way south of trendy but man, he’s Texas cool”
“The guitar player’s got a Stetson and a smoke dangling from his lips
And he looks just as greasy as his guitar licks
The prettiest girl in the whole bar asked me what my name was
But the band was so goddamn loud that I never caught hers
But I got her hair in my mouth from screaming in her ear
And it smelled just like cigarettes and her breath smelled like beer”
This hard driving melodic rock continues with Someone For You and Light in the Attic although the latter is sweetened somewhat by the stately piano and very fine pedal steel playing. On Claws they return to the clangorous sound of the opening song with some magnificent guitar soloing featuring along with some neat percussion from Steve Foley.
Zeman does feature some acoustic balladry on the apocalyptic End of The World while the pair of songs, Rain On the Roof #1 and #2 that end the album feature strings and a mellower sound. Rain On The Roof #1 is a great song. Gathering many of the tropes that feature throughout, loneliness, the elements and the desire to stop time it is simply superb. The extended ending of Rain On The Roof #2 with rain sounds and a string section draws out the sense of time wasting away. A fine album indeed.
Rain On The Roof #1