Regular readers might know that we’re suckers for the darker side of Americana, the underbelly, the dank, dangerous deadlands where a switchblade might be as handy as a guitar. Be it under a blistering desert sun or on a spooky New Orleans backstreet, murder, mayhem and madness do brighten up the day’s listening. With this in mind Rachel Brooke’s latest album, A Killer’s Dream, was almost predestined to land here with its promotional tag line of American Gothic Roots music, a fairly good description. Looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth (aside from a prominent tattoo on her arm) Ms. Brooke appears to dwell in a twilight world of misty menace peopled with the ghosts of country past, R’n’B ghouls and faded jazz divas and the album is a collection of portentous songs filled with omens and foreboding.
With an extremely able backing band Brooke ranges from old time country, rockabilly, gutbucket blues and New Orleans jazz as easily as one changes a shirt. In addition to guitar and vocals she manages tympani, xylophone, vibraphone, bass drum and percussion while slide guitar, fiddle, musical saw and trumpet all feature over and above the bass and drums. The album kicks off in fine style with her lonesome voice on the 38 second Have It All before the band crashes in with the magnificently sloppy blues of Fox In A Henhouse where Brooke’s waiting for a love rival with a .38 in her hand. Late Night Lover is slinky, sexy and spooky while a cover of Fats Domino’s Every Night About this Time would sit well in the sleazy roadhouse in Twin Peaks. Away from the raucous rough and tumble of the opening songs Brooke tumbles into a country mode with Life sentence Blues, a spare cry from the heart while Old faded Memory, a duet with Lonesome Wyatt features an elderly pair reminiscing and regretting on a live spent together that they never had. The most delicate song on the album it’s the highlight here as Brooke sings clear as a mountain stream. It’s back to the louche side of life on the slippery trumpet driven Ashes To Ashes while The Black Bird hints at sinister goings on. The title song closes the album and weirdly enough is the most upbeat song here with a sound not too far removed from early sixties girl group offerings from the red Bird label. It’s sassy and almost tongue in cheek compared with its predecessors. A hidden track at the end closes the album on a sombre note.