North Carolina musician Michael Rank has been knocking about for the past 20 years with his band Snatches of Pink, a band much in thrall to the likes of Nikki Sudden, Johnny thunders and Keith Richards. This solo effort sees him backed by members of the band along with several other North Carolina luminaries from bands such as Trailer Bride, Patty Hurst Shifter and Chatham County Line. It’s been five years since he’s recorded and in that time he fathered a son only to have his partner leave him and some of this is reflected here, which might bode well for those who see “break up” albums as a surefire way to call up the muse.
Describing his new outfit as “the illegitimate son of rock and roll casualties Snatches of Pink” Rank also calls them the “acoustic arm of the scarecrow,” presumably to differentiate this line up from the gutter glitter image and sound of the earlier band and while its true that fiddles fly and acoustic guitar predominates there’s plenty of electric bursts and buzzes that spark and burn on what is a set of wonderfully ramshackle country leaning rock songs.
The opening country thrash of Tenderhook doesn’t really prepare the listener for the majesty of On The Bleed, a ballad straight from the Stones’ country songbook with keening pedal steel and curling guitars winding in and around Rank’s strained and wearied vocals, tremendous stuff. The Goat is another Stones like cut with some stately piano playing adding a degree of faded grandeur to it. The country honk of Straw Man starts off as a fine fiddle and mandolin laced stomp, a hillbilly Son Volt almost but towards the end Rank launches into an audacious ragged glory of a guitar solo that tears the song to shreds and leaves the listener beaten into submission. Underneath the angst and chaos Rank does write some beautiful songs here with Tongue, another song in the late sixties Stones decadent style standing out while Arrowheads is a heartfelt plea regarding his failed relationship. His guitar work at times ranks with Neil Young for angry and massive slices of noise such as when he lets rip towards the end of Manservant.
This is not an album for anyone who wants to hear polished and tidy country rock. Several of the songs are almost like a visceral assault on the ears, Gun Breaths has Stag’s pained voice howling over swathes of guitar and piano while the closer Here Comes The Light ramps this up to the nth degree. Some of the lyrics are close to the bone as Rank examines what went wrong but overall it’s a brave and naked attempt to wrest some sense from his life. To his and the musicians’ credit they deliver in spades with what is one of the most invigorating albums we’ve heard this year.
On The Bleed