The genre of country music is usually pretty polarizing. However, add ‘alternative’ to the mix, and I’ll be darned; strap me in, and call me uncle, because that’s some good shit. The folks at The Flying Spider Revival deliver a soulful collection of songs in their latest album Gravel, Sand & Bone. Now, there’s no doubt that country music runs through the big vein of this record, but it does so ever so smoothly and through a heart that sings the blues. A stripped back sound, washy tremolo guitars, and a voice that sounds like someone threw a lit match down a throat lined with gasoline; Gravel, Sand & Bone is the most appropriate name for this album.
We start at the end. As the lyrics to the opening song “The End” states, “you can’t see the end ‘til you’ve passed the end, my friend.” This is a great line to have in the opening song to the record, as it places everything you’re about to hear in a time after the end. This track is painted with the strongest colours of this album. The howling vocals echo the feels of Tom Waits and Mark Langegan, while the music has your head bobbing and your knees weak with waves washy tremolo wonder. The soul in this song is the blues; in the singing, in the music. It’s a fantastic opening track.
A couple of ballads follow up. In “Ain’t No Love” the fresh sound of an acoustic guitar joins us. The mood drops, and things somber down. Although the vocals don’t sit as comfortably atop the dialed back music, the sentiment is there. These folks know how to sink their emotion into it. Some lap steel guitar swirls around very gracefully, and you find yourself wrapped in a warm blanket of sorrows. “Mynydd Machen” plugs into the very same port, so luckily for likers of the first ballad, there is a sister song that waits.
If by this point you’re down on your mood, do not fret. Just like any shot of whiskey is meant to do, the track “Whiskey” comes to lift the spirits a little bit. The remedy to the blues never sits at the bottom of a shot of whiskey so, you end up just feeling more energized about them. The song is perfectly placed in the tracklist and gives a good flow to the album. It hands off the punch to my favourite track, “Louisiana.”
With an intro that could have been shortlisted as a Breaking Bad theme, the song carries some weight. A repetitive guitar lick locks you into the groove, while the low rumble of the bass and toms hum in your gut. The title of the song evokes the most southern of spirits, and this hypnotic song does a fine job of captivating its listener. While neither the music nor vocal melodies change very much throughout the duration of the song, the energy slowly builds, cleverly releases, and calmly washes back into the sea of emptiness.
In that sea, like in every sea to ever exist, there is a sailor longing for his lady. She is the lighthouse to his journey and sees her reflected in the stars in the sky. The song “Shipwrecked” is a tale as old as, well, boats, I guess? Although the lyrics are a little cliché, the spirit is pure and true. The whistling at the end of the song really does some good as well.
Rounding the last corner, we come across a few more gems before clocking out. “In This City” is the happiest song on the album, and has some joy in its boots for sure. Even with the blues still sitting in the vocals, the music and melodies seem hopeful. It is a good changeup that comes just before things wrap up. “Valley Rising” also has a mood to it. Its pumping bass line drives the end of this record. In the music video, you get to see the faces of the men who put this together, and it all matches up. It’s very satisfying to catch a group of musicians playing honest music. There’s a lot of heart and soul in this one, that’s for sure. So, open up and give it a listen.
Written by Ben Cornel
*edited by Danielle Kenedy