How art gets generated.
The album opens with Red Brick Dust, a hard-driving tune that doesn’t let up and sets the stage for the entire album, with lead singer Mather Louth’s sultry voice floating above the guitars, fiddle, and banjo. The album takes the listener on a journey through dusty backroads, tall forests with no moonlight, forgotten ghost towns, and lonely murder scenes.
In The Reckoning, slightly reminiscent of early 16 Horsepower, long-time Louth fans will recognize the familiar energy; defiant, sultry, and unrepentant all at once. Louth seems to sing a bit more from the gut on this track, complete with an unforgettable banshee shriek to punctuate the end of every chorus, like a flying flaming spear thrown from one of the Four Horsemen as they descend upon a town whose Judgment Day has come.
The transition to the next track, The Dark Pines, is refreshing respite from the hard-charging The Reckoning, to a jerky and lonely Tom Waits-esque banjo riff. Here, Louth’s storytelling that shines through the haunting lyrics is transcendent and vaudevillian, highlighted by contrast by a long, low, foreboding drone underneath nearly the entire track.
The album closes with Lonesome Whistle, a song that captures the crushing stillness of loneliness deftly, set to a slow honky-tonk waltz, with the soul in Louth’s ethereal voice taking center stage. Against an album of confrontational lyrics and charging rhythms, this track stands out because it breathes and lets the listener breathe and be still and be comfortable with the uneasy and unavoidable stillness of the song.
Overall, this murder-themed album explores all avenues of the subject, from love, to loss, to crime, to redemption, and ultimately, the loneliness of those left behind. Set against a soundtrack of solid country noir, Boot Hill Hymnal is a solid effort from the Heathen Apostles, and with luck, the first of many.