Been a while since we heard from Jim Dead, Glasgow’s premier purveyor of dry gulch rock. His last missive from the missions was I’m Not Lost back in 2013 where he and his compadre Craig Hughes plugged in with a crackling intensity. On Pray For Rain Dead has resurrected his occassional backing band The Doubters (on this occasion comprised of Stuart Begley on guitar; Frankie Coia on bass and Tommy Clark on drums ) and with his new posse in tow seems to have been spending some time in a bar with a jukebox populated with early ZZ Top and Creedence discs. It’s a cantankerous listen, scribbled with quarrelling guitars and a heavy bass/drum thud, Dead’s voice wailing like a biblical prophet. While his previous releases have always had a whiff of Morricone inspired dusty vistas here the gloves are off and the band are howling at the moon.
One of the highlights of Dead’s previous full length album, Ten Fires, was the loping death sentence of John Landstrom Must Die and it’s this song that is the template for Pray For Rain. Dead and Begley’s guitars spar throughout be it the on the jagged juggernaut that is the opening song, Wooden Kimono, the sludge ridden blues riff of the title song or the evil slide opening to You Coulda Said, the latter especially invigorating. There’s evidence of Dead’s allegiance to metal with Lovesick Blues sounding like an unholy marriage of Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer as Dead screams, “You don’t love me, I don’t like me too” over an almighty riff. And overall the riff is king here as Dead & The Doubters demolish the melodies on their steamroller ride with May The Road Rise an almighty example.
There are glimpses of Dead’s earlier incarnations. Crows On The Wire is a jaunty country rock romp (although it’s wired to the moon with its zinging guitar lines) and Home returns to his role as a shamanistic weatherman singing, “There’s a wind coming in from the west, woman by my side says she knows best. It’s taken all I have just to find a place where I can stop and have a rest.” It opens up with a resigned air, slowly jangled guitar over a slow beat before an excellent fuzzed guitar solo weighs in. This yin/yan dynamic persists throughout the song with Dead sounding increasingly desperate. The album closes with the slow burn of I’m Not Lost (a song that wasn’t on the EP of the same name) that harks back to the Neil Young like epics of Ten Fires. A seven minute long miasma of thrashing and squalling guitars with a Crazy Horse backbeat it pummels the listener into surrender.
Jim Dead & The Doubters will be playing at the album release show at the 13th Note in Glasgow on Friday 4th December with support from Craig Hughes’ Dog Howl Moon. If Dead can summon up the intensity he’s captured here it should be a fine night.