You have to admit there’s not too many bands named after heavy road vehicles. Buffalo Springfield were apparently inspired by a steam roller and it didn’t seem to hamper their progress. Here we have a crew from Seattle who maybe think that a tractor company (although they miss out an “e”) will draw folk in, at the very least it’s a memorable name and should avoid the harhums and ‘ums that often accompany a momentary lapse of memory when telling a pal about this great new band.
While great might be too over the top to describe Massy Ferguson (and they’re not particularly new) it’s fair to say that Victory & Ruins is as fine a slice of rip roaring rootsy Americana rock as I’ve heard in some time. With a classic four piece line up (Ethan Anderson, bass and lead vocals, Dave Goedde, drums, Adam Monda, guitar and backup vocals and Tony Mann on keyboards) they aren’t the most original band around but then neither were The Blasters. What matters is that Victory & Ruins is one of those albums that you can whip out and play when someone asks you to define American roots rock. With elements of The Drive By Truckers, Son Volt, The Jayhawks, Bottle Rockets and others all cramped in the driver’s cab they set out to harvest some prime roots music pausing briefly to pick up additional passengers including Jason Kardong whose pedal steel sweetens several of the songs and Zoe Muth who delivers a very fine vocal on The Hard Way.
The album opens with the jackhammer guitar and drums of Hello, a song that harks back to snappy power pop times with arm punching precision, a great chorus and a pile driving finish. Renegade however trumps this with its flowing country rock feel, the percussion lighter and the guitars rippling on a song that’s not too far removed from local heroes The Wynntown Marshals. 2 AM Beauty Queen continues in this vein with a harder edge and again the Marshals come to mind with Anderson’s voice capturing that slightly hoarse, slightly worn at the edges, dusty delivery. Here the band do deserve to be called great as the barrelling guitars and organ drive the song while there’s a tremendous dynamic with lulls in the musical maelstrom allowing Anderson to ponder on the rights and wrongs of falling for the titular beauty. Everything’s Done is a hard luck tale with a bold palette as the organ swirls throughout, the bass burbles and the guitars slowly burn while Goedde adds the most sympathetic cowbell heard in some time. Zoe Muth steps to the front to duet on The Hard Way, a very fine country piece that lopes along with gliding pedal steel guaranteed to melt the heart of cosmic cowboys everywhere. The band visit DBT territory with the rambunctious Flexed-Arm Hang but the following songs (Compromised Intelligence and Wait Love Maybe) lack the bite of their predecessors. The Beatles’ like opening chords of Labour In Vain however has the band back in full swagger with clarion guitar ringing away as they mix Tom Petty, The Byrds and The Truckers in equal doses. Apartment Downtown departs from the template with a cello adding a sonorous depth to this tender love song while they lower the curtain with the sweet and sour melancholic country rock sweep of Bring Back Something, a fine end to a very fine album.
Good news, Massy Ferguson are touring here next month, bad news, no Scottish dates. However on the strength of this they are well worth seeing.