“Drunker than we should have been” – holding on with Shiloh Lindsey
Western Violence and Brief Sensuality – by Shiloh Lindsey
Review by Doug Heselgrave
Warning – If you’re blue, experiencing heartache, standing at a crossroads somewhere between sin and redemption or just barely holding on in any way – Shiloh Lindsey’s new CD may not be for you.
But, if you’ve been waiting for a singer who puts the hurtin’ back in country music, and you’ve been missing having to ask the bartender to leave a little room at the top of your beer glass for tears to fall into – “Western Violence and Brief Sensuality” might just be the CD you’ve been waiting for.
I don’t know how she got so damned blue or where Shiloh Lindsey’s been all of our lives, but she’s got it bad and that’s a good thing for her growing number of fans. A native of Vancouver, Canada via rural Alberta, “Western Violence and Brief Sensuality” is her second album and one can only hope that it gets the attention it deserves.
From the lonely Ennio Morricone inspired trumpet that moans across the stark instrumentation of “Head in My Grave” that opens the album to the wailing plea for deliverance on “Tired of Drinking” that closes it, Shiloh Lindsey has written one seriously dark set of songs to share with her listeners. This is the kind of record we’ve been hoping for from Lucinda for years. The Pandora’s box of hurting she opened up early on in her career and that crystallised with “Car Wheels” runs rampant and unchecked through Lindsey’s songs. One wonders if she can keep it up, or if like Lucinda, she’ll opt to be happy and swap the overbearing howling angst for a little more poetry and emotional distance.
Before I go too much further, I think it’s important to acknowledge that tough talkin’, hard living wannabe country artists are a dime a dozen. Anybody can drink too much, do stupid things and dress like a wastrel or a five dollar whore, but not many people can make meaningful art from that side of the moral divide. If you’re like me you’ve heard a lot of embarrassing attempts at capturing the essence of music that evokes the wrong side of the tracks by people who have never been there with anything more than a tourist visa.
I keep listening to this album searching for a crack in Shiloh Lindsey’s façade – something that would prove she’s just a poseur copping a bad attitude, but after wallowing around through the skids and empty bottles that litter these songs, I’m convinced that she’s the real deal. You can practically smell the stale beer, piss and cigarettes rise off of your CD player as Lindsey shifts between wail and deep throated whisper as each of her songs unwinds to its sad conclusion. This is cowboy existentialism at its finest; today and tomorrow blend into a painful cycle where each day begins with a hangover and accompanying regret that dissipates as the first drink is poured just as the sun pokes over the yardarm. When Shiloh sings “I can keep holding on” in the song of the same title, you seriously wonder. But, for Lindsey, there’s no easy way out as she screams “I don’t need anyone to tell me where my heart is” to the Jehovah Witnesses who come to the door far too early on a Sunday morning on the scathing “Figurines of Faith.” I doubt whether any artist this side of John Lennon – whose song “God” stirred up a huge controversy when it was released in 1970 – has leveled a more blistering attack on false piousness and religious guilt than Lindsey offers here .
Clearly, “Western Violence and Brief Sensuality” isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea – or shot of whiskey as the case may be – but for those with a taste for strong stuff from the dark side, there may be no better destination than this emotional train wreck of an album. Shiloh Lindsey’s music is habit forming. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.