Last time Blabber’n’Smoke encountered Bob Collum, born in Oklahoma and now based in Essex, we remarked on his similarity to the pioneering efforts of bands such as Roogalator, The Kursall Flyers and others who paved the way for the likes of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. This Heart Will Self Destruct retains elements of his affinity with those heady days of proto UK country rock roots music, but adds a healthy dash of more country flavoured numbers and Bob Wills’ styled Western Swing.
There’s a fine and gentle introduction to the album as Parachute glides in with a foot-tapping country rock sway, enlivened by Mags Layton’s fiddle break. Guest guitarist, Martin Belmont, adds some delicious licks towards the end of a song which is quite a palate cleanser. Another guest, this time Peter Holsapple, is on fine and funky form on B3 Hammond organ adding a Garth Hudson like presence to the slinky soul of Spare Me, one of the album’s highlights. Tall Glass Of Muddy Water is up next and it’s another standout as Collum and the band vamp their way through a song which variously recalls chain gang work songs, New Orleans voodoo hoodoo and good old fashioned film noir menace.
A raucous and hugely enjoyable romp through Leiber & Stoller’s Saved allows the band to let their hair down before they launch into a darker theme on From Birmingham. It’s a fulsome country tearjerker song with weeping fiddle and mournful accordion leading the way as Collum sings of a frustrated love affair and more of this on future recordings would be greatly appreciated. As it is, the remainder of the album returns to more upbeat tempos with the title song reviving the toe taps of the opening number while Giving Up is perhaps the song best suited here to sum up Collum’s ability to update the nervy new wave approach to country music. And just as those ex hippies tucked into skinny jeans matured and perfected their craft, two songs towards the end of the album allow Collum and the band to show how well they manage their version of country rock. Second Fiddle comes out of the country gate, approaching rock with its muscular rhythm section while sounding for all the while as if it were a song by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band while Shake It Loose is a hip swaying dance song with twang guitar duelling with Layton’s excellent fiddle playing.