It’s been a while since we’ve come across a record label has the feel of being a trademark of quality in that it’s a fair bet that if they release a disc then it’ll be well worth exploring. Elektra, Stiff, SST, Bloodshot have all had their moments in the sun when this was true of them. This Is American Music (or TIAM), a labour of love for some Americana fans in the deep south has in the three years it’s been running built a solid reputation with releases from Glossary, The District Attorneys, Great peacock and Hurray For The Riff Raff. They’ve a slew of new releases hammering to be heard including Bonnie Whitmore, Have Gun Will travel and this offering, as fine a slice of dusty deadbeat songs as we’ve heard in a while.
Based in Kentucky Doc Feldman is a local veteran of several bands and Sundowning At the Station is his solo debut following the demise of his last band Good Saints. We say solo but he’s assembled a studio crew called the LD50 (go look it up) consisting of James Jackson Toth (AKA Wooden Wand), David Chapman and Jeremiah Floyd and produced a minor masterpiece of reproaches and recriminations. With Feldman at the helm proclaiming like a soiled preacher the band offer a muted support sounding like a wounded Crazy Horse (on Alive For Now) or lost in a sea of fuzz (Battle Hymn), overall there’s a sense of numbness, of howling at the moon, railing against life’s calamities.
Ready opens the album, a banjo riddled riposte to the country rock popularised by Neil Young’s Harvest taking Young’s sound and diving headlong into the ditch as Feldman pleads to be given a lethal dose to end it all. Texas Moan is a novel in miniature as the band conjure up the sound of Little Feat on Sailing Shoes. Alive For Now opens with portentous guitars and drum washes before settling down into a pared down cousin to Neil Young’s Zuma as guitars slow burn and the rhythm section churns away like the muddy Mississippi. On some of the songs the sound is pared back leaving Feldman to stand naked as it were with Let It Go recalling Steve Earle in his rehab days while Cold Tile Floor brims with menace. There are snatches of found sounds scattered throughout the album but they are most effective on the solo dirge that is Only Light where Feldman picks up his guitar and delivers a magnificent mea culpa.
Downbeat and dreary may be the order of the day here but ultimately the delivery is exciting with some shiver worthy moments and as we said earlier a fine addition to the TIAM catalogue.