Some Girls (Quite) Like Country Music
Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes
Blood was spilled on the studio floor, many songs were harmed or even killed in the process of making this album. Pianos were deliberately detuned, expensive guitars were accidentally crushed (and later repaired). Songs were re-recorded because they were "played too well" the first time around, and lyrics were rewritten because they were "not mean enough". We even delayed recording a month because Shaun's bass strings were "too new". There's a song about a cemetery, a trailer-trash midlife crisis, a forty-year romance, a promiscuous girlfriend, a city we like, a pre-apocalyptic cautionary tale and a missing person's report, just to name a few. If our albums are our children, this one's the one that took up smoking at seven years old, got a tattoo at twelve, hacked the high school computer network at fifteen but always remembered to offer a seat to the old lady on the tram and volunteered at the soup kitchen through uni whilst living in a squat and dating the son of a notorious gangland figure. She's quite the contrary one." Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes
Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes have built their reputation on storytelling. Over the past eight years they have released four records, toured Europe and the USA multiple times, shared stages with Americana and country heavyweights and picked up a string of awards, including the Golden Guitar for ‘alt country album of the year’ with their landmark release Black Coffee.
But they’ve never told stories like the ones on new record ‘Some Girls (Quite) Like Country Music’. By far the band’s most ‘adult’ work, ‘Some Girls’ is a country record, but draws as heavily upon the influence of Leonard Cohen and Billy Bragg as it does Willie Nelson and Townes Van Zandt.
Lachlan, at the piano for much of the album, noticed the shift in his own approach as well as that of his collaborators. “We’re all feeling the weight of being grown-ups now”, he explains, “and it feels natural to write about grown-up things. The subject matter changed, and it happened without us even noticing it at first”.
Opener I hope that I’m Wrong sets the tone for the record, a pre-apocalyptic folk-song reflecting on mankind’s selfishness and irresponsibility, set against a sparse accompaniment of thumbed acoustic-guitar , bass and a distant, atmospheric telecaster.
Track two, A Portrait of the Artist as a Middle Aged Man, is a scathing attack on an older guy chasing a younger girl which Lachlan describes as “inspired by a few people, none of whom set out to do anything wrong, but all of whom spiralled”. Sadly it’s an all-too-common story.
“I tried to write that song without judgement”, Lachlan explains, “but it was hard. This guy, this character, he’s floundering. He’s stepped off the edge of civilisation – he’s running round with someone half his age and he’s starting to realise that everything about it is wrong. But by this point he’s gone too far, he can’t dig himself out now”.
Track five, Sweet Bird of Youth, takes a gentler tack and seems far more autobiographical. It also sounds like it belongs in a late night piano bar. “I started that song when we were making our first record, and I’ve rewritten it four times over the last eight years. I think it makes more sense now than it did when I was in my twenties – so I’m glad I took my time”.
Peace in the Valley, track 9, is perhaps the heaviest of all in terms of content, telling the story of a teenage girl gone missing, from the perspective of her absent father. Lachlan and band have always been good at sounding older than they are, and the slow country waltz of this song helps us to really get inside the head of a flawed family man.
First single The Basics of Love represents a lighter moment on the record – a sweet duet with ARIA Winner Shanley Del. It follows the story of a man and a woman who’ve been around the block a few times, in the tradition of Tom Waits’ I Never Talk to Strangers.
Other lighter moments include Stolen Again, a cheeky, dobro-driven tale of a much-loved promiscuous girl and the fiddle led, rockabilly-infused It Tears Me Up (Every Time You Turn Me Down). Careless Hearts, track three, is an uplifting celebration of the kind of ragged love and friendship that the band seems to specialise in, and is one of four songs to feature the stellar backing vocal contributions of young singer-songwriter Imogen Clark (including ‘In New York’, co-written by Clark’s partner and Wildes founding member/bass player Shaun Ryan).
Imogen is one of few outside the band to get a look in on ‘Some Girls’, which was produced with the lightest of touch by newest Wilde Damian Cafarella at EoR Studios in Melbourne. John Beddgood of The Wilson Pickers also shows up, playing fiddle on a handful of tracks, whilst James Gillard also contributes a little upright bass and a backing vocal on The Basics of Love.
“We really enjoyed leaving the dirt on” says Lachlan, “we didn’t want to round off the edges too much and we always chose the most meaningful take, which is almost never the most musically perfect”.
But it seems Lachlan and The Wildes have achieved a different sort of musical perfection – the kind that puts the listener in an emotional space from the first to the last bar. ‘Some Girls (Quite) Like Country Music’ is a ragged, poetic, alt-country gem.
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