Wanna work on the railroad, wanna drive some steel/Hey mister, won’t you hire me?/It’s been a while since my last meal/He says: But you’re a woman, run along back home/Who’s keeping your babies?/Does your husband know you’re out alone?
At the outset of Trailer Bride’s second Bloodshot release, singer-guitarist Melissa Swingle imparts those lines with an ominous, knowing lilt. The song may be called “Work On The Railroad”, but the music biz is still largely a boys’ racket, and when she sings about battling for consideration in a man’s world, Swingle sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.
Using the country idiom as a metaphor for modern experience isn’t a new strategy, but few employ it as cleverly as Trailer Bride does here. The instrumentation is as rudimentary as it gets: Daryl White’s upright bass, Brad Goolsy’s rattle-trap percussion, brother Scott Goolsby’s guitar, and Swingle’s guitar, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, organ and saw.
But songs like the see-sawing “Clermont Hotel” and the ominous “Too Many Snakes” and “Dirt Nap” are winningly off-kilter. Likewise, there’s a funhouse-mirror world-view reflected in Swingle’s lyrics, even when she’s contemplating her own creative process on “Left-Hand Cigarette Blues”: “She tries to play guitar to find the minor chord/For the song swirling around in her head/An angel or a devil told her all the words/She can’t remember what they said.”
The closest reference point might be PJ Harvey jamming at a hootenanny with the Velvet Underground circa album #3. But when you mix it up that extravagantly, the only appropriate adjective is…original.