Words by Ed King
Certain genres are harder to give a fresh slant. Rock has been fist pumping since the 80’s, the blues can’t be too cruel or uplifting, and no self respecting gabba techno enthusiast is going to plumb for the ‘Vocal Mix’. But nesting in the even more unreachable branches of originality is country, a musical moniker that simply defines itself by itself – especially to an old colonial.
But Worry Dolls are braver than most, travelling across the pond to record their debut album, Go Get Gone, in Nashville – a ten track LP that is simple, melodic, unashamed and above all country. The inlay card has words like pedal steel, lap steel and dobro on it.
Go Get Gone is an endearing debut. A short and accessible LP, brimming with the ingredients that any self respecting heart needs to break and recover. Opening songs, ‘Endless Road’ and ‘Trains Leaving’, tell tales of empowerment on the open road, whilst the heart of the album is about the heart – ranging from the acoustic lament of ‘Don’t Waste Your Heart On Me’ to the punchy, almost Alannah Mylesesque adventure of ‘Bless Your Heart’. There’s even a piano ballad in there – which my brain placed somewhere between Aimee Mann and Cat Stevens… of all references. But listen to ‘She Don’t Live Here Anymore’ and let me know what you’re cerebral cortex comes up with.
And ‘Miss You Already’ sounds so much like a country standard I spent nearly an hour trying to find where Worry Dolls had borrowed it from. It’s all theirs. It’s not a Faron Young song or a British rom com. Thanks Google.
Vocally, Worry Dolls are strong – with one set of lungs taking a more confident lead across the album. The melodies on Go Get Gone are all as simple and superb as a good song should be, with a reassuring benchmark that’s often over shone. The downside in this album comes, sadly, from one of its foundation blocks. Production. It’s too obviously country.
Go Get Gone sounds like two eager, talented musicians with a vision stepped off a plane thousands of miles away and into a studio – only to be handheld by the defacto sound of one word. Country album 101; someone get me a slide guitar and call a fiddle player (the fiddle does sound good though). It’s frustrating because Worry Dolls have much more to offer than production-by-numbers; several songs on Go Get Gone show this too clearly to ignore.
But it does exactly what it set out to do, and one man’s critique shouldn’t tarnish the ‘lost friends and lovers and days and hours’ that Worry Dolls endured to breathe life into their debut. Go Get Gone is a good debut album and country was always going to be some tough silver to polish.
Plus (and I’m putting my future neck on the line a bit here) I believe live performances are where this body of work will really take shape. And with Worry Dolls kicking off the dust balls with a 25 date UK tour from 28th January to 30th April – coming to Birmingham’s Kitchen Garden Café on 22nd February, there are many chances to see if this will all pan out.
God knows, I’m not brave enough to travel half way around the world to find out.
‘Break Your Heart’ / Worry Dolls
Go Get Gone by Worry Dolls is out from 27th January, released through Bread & Butter Records. For more on Worry Dolls, including online purchase points, visit www.worrydollsmusic.com
Worry Dolls will be performing at the Kitchen Garden Café on 22nd February. For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.
For more from the Kitchen Garden Café, including a full events programme and menus, visit www.kitchengardencafe.co.uk
For more from Bread & Butter Music, visit www.breadandbuttermusic.com