Drunken Prayer is the vehicle for Morgan Geer’s wistful and slightly skewed version of Americana. Geer, an occasional member of Freakwater and sometime player with The Handsome Family, has released several albums under the Drunken Prayer banner but this is the first one to have flown our way. We might be late to the show but thoroughly enjoyed this sixth album and fully intend to seek out its predecessors.
It’s tempting to class Drunken Prayer along with The Handsome Family given their link and the fact that Geer occasionally inhabits a similar world to that of the Handsome Family – dark, slightly whimsical, sometimes dreamlike. The delightful childlike naiveté of God Of The Sea certainly has more than a touch of The Handsome’s to it while Crazy Alone, a gorgeous paean to hopelessness, has a similar feel to Weightless Again. But whereas the Sparks tend to stick to their tried and trusted template, Geer roams further afield with his country and folk influences much more evident while several of the songs on show here pack a fine country rock crunch.
The album kicks off with Geer sounding almost like Guy Clark on the handsome stroll of Sweetheart Of The Picket Line. A political song but somewhat opaque, it seems to this listener that Geer is on the side of peaceful demonstrators facing the thuggery of armed right wing militias, out to kill the peace loving mockingbirds who oppose them. He returns to this theme later on the fiddle strewn crunch of The Judas Table which, again, is quite opaque with lyrics which might or might not relate to Jagger’s dilemma on Street Fighting Man. Digging the lyrics is a great part of the enjoyment here as Geer seems to enjoy being both playful and somewhat baffling. Oasis In The Yard is a fine mash up of Beatles and Stones like raunch as he recollects his youthful pursuits including listening to Oasis and riding go-karts. Landlines And Rabbit Ears (Nachos For One) is a fine ode to loneliness, inspired apparently by a menu encountered in an English motel and tinged with a melancholic air one associates with Neil Innes.
Myna Birds, another song which has some slight similarities to The Handsome Family, is a gorgeous swoon with gliding guitars while Sunderland finds Geer wandering into Band territory on a fine pedal steel soaked ballad which contemplates the opioid epidemic in Appalachia where, “the flags forever fly at half-mast.” It’s followed by the title song, a short repetitive lament with the dread of the lyrics backed by a glorious mix of spaghetti western mood and soaring cosmic country guitars.
Snuck in midway through the album, two songs are downright humorous country tributes. I Wouldn’t Change A Thing is a duet in George and Tammy style (with Christa de Mayo singing the Tammy part) which finds the pair squabbling brilliantly over their misdemeanours. Country Music Ball of Flame meanwhile is a wearied honky tonk number with the singer (probably in his cups) complaining about his lack of stardom. He’s never had a number one hit but has “polished up a couple number twos,” which, if it’s a pun, is quite brilliant. Anyhow, they just add to the variety of this excellent album.