Alt-country worth tracking down
Reviewed November 2009
The Suicide Kings
By The Suicide Kings
Blue Plate Music: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
The disc "The Suicide Kings" came to your reviewer in a batch of at least 15 country and blues-rock discs recently and had two strikes against it: a 2008 release date and a band name that is as common as Jones; there have to be a half-dozen bands with the same name.
Their music is distinctive, though. This experienced alt-country rock outfit from L.A. has a sound that sets it apart on its debut disc at least this version of the band and disc, since a little work on the web found a review of a 1997 version of the band with a disc that had the same name, front man and at least one of the same songs. No matter. These guys have a seasoned, smooth sound and have written some memorable tunes which cover the full pallet of country themes spirituality, the bottle, low-down women and bad luck. Throughout, the band manages a to produce a genuine country sound without the use of steel guitar, banjo, fiddle or any slide guitars or elaborate production.
All the tunes were written by singer/guitarist Bruce Connole, and there are some gems. The opener is appropriately titled "Suicide King," an open confession by a sinner. The comfortable, confident vocal by Connole telling Jesus his troubles, the tight harmonies, honkey-tonk keyboards and standup bass of the four-man crew fit just right. It's a shuffle for "Marie," as tremolo-drenched guitar takes a few bars of solo. "Job 3:25" rocks the house with Hammond organ and a ragged vocal delivered by Connole with flair. The Hammond is back on the quieter shuffle "Everything's Right," a close-harmony tune with a memorable melody that stays with the listener and is a disc highlight, along with "I Want to Live Forever." This song uses a funky beat beneath floating country harmonies that are burn-in-the-brain catchy. "Even Hookers Say Goodbye" is the closest thing to a Nashville tune on the disc, with some tasty guitar licks and plenty of drawl. Wrapping things up is "Thoughts Inside," about the state of the world; great lyrics about how "fourteen hundred years from now, we'll all be dead" and swelling Hammond chords.
"The Suicide Kings" is a pleasant surprise, a disc that easily could be lost in the shuffle of alt-country debut discs, delivered by a veteran band. It is worth seeking out the reward is hours of good listening.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.