Review a new project featuring a member of A Hill to Die Upon, how could I turn that down. Oh, it’s a dark country/folk album, so how’s that for a twist? For those wondering, I have heard that AHTDU is written and recording to start soon, so how’s that for some good news?
Folk music and older country music often deals with somewhat darker topics, and The Comancheros certainly carry on that tradition, with songs involving conversations with the devil and a cover of the traditional folk song “O Death”, which also was covered by Michael Cook’s other more widely known band, A Hill to Die Upon.
For a a site that covers punk and metal, this at first may seem a bit of a stretch to cover this project but as mentioned there is certainly a metal presence on the performances and since one of the great extreme/black metal bands can cover one of the same songs, this does make a bit more sense. One of the first things I noticed on the album was the intimate feel of the recording as the listener could easily close their eyes and imagine the band in performing in their living room. Vocals and instruments are that crisp and clear. While guitar and banjo carry much of weight in the songs, the fiddle on “Don’t Forget My Name”, “Cold and Hungry”, and “O Death” provides a great counterpoint. Tanner Jones vocals seem a perfect fit for this genre and convey the necessary melancholy but also with a sense of rebellion and hope. “Cold and Hungry” and “O Death” also incorporate female vocals from Beckie Cook and Stephanie Taylor that match very well with Tanner’s and provide a sense of contrast and beauty with undertones of despair but still tinged by hope.
At times some of the music almost seems to repeat but when you think about some of the greats like Johnny Cash and how similar some of his songs were, you can forget about that and focus more on the story being told, which really is the defining aspect of this style of music, although the brief fiddle in “Don’t Forget My Name” is simply brilliant.
Things turn a bit more toward Southern Rock on “It’s Too Late” which would likely work very well fully amplified and then perhaps as almost expected, the album closes with a version of O Death in which the band as it is, pulls out all the stops, bringing in some backing vocals for depth as well as more fiddle from Katie Hobbs and Stephanie Taylor to provide some contrasting female vocals.
For those looking for something a bit different that still carries much of the attitude, emotion, and approach of metal music but provides a more intimate listening experience, The Comancheros are worth checking out.
Note: for full disclosure, some songs on the album do contain some strong language not normally found on albums reviewed here, but from time to time, noteworthy albums are reviewed that do include such language when they are part of the normal lexicon. The songs can be streamed at the Bandcamp page so the listener can make their own decisions.
Written by John Jackson
01. The Black Wizard
02. Cold and Hungry
03. Don’t Forget My Name
04. White Stranger
05. It’s Too Late
06. O Death
Tanner Jones – vocals, guitar, bass
R. Michael Cook – bass, banjo, percussion
Jon “Deere” Green – classical and lead guitar on “It’s Too Late”
Beckie Cook – vocals on “Cold and Hungry”
Katie Hobbs – fiddle on “Don’t Forget My Name,” “Cold and Hungry,” and “O Death”
Stephanie Taylor – vocals on “O Death”
Record Label: Treehoss Records, Dec. 2015