Record Reviews

The Curse of Lightning

It’s misguided to think that country music always has to be cute, or kitsch, or even that is has to be American to be somehow ?authentic?. Melbourne’s Wagons are a case in point. They certainly aren’t cute, and they capture the essence of the music regardless of their origins. On their third album main man Henry Wagon summons and channels the ghosts and spirits of people as diverse as the worn out man contemplating suicide as a way to change his life in the first track, ?Draw Blood?, to the prisoner who narrates ?Jail It Hell? (?I’m tired of takin? it up the ass!?), the album’s storming closer.

In between there are tales of young love and lost love, of snakebite and sin. Singing in a distinctive baritone most of the time, Henry stretches things out a bit, using the instruments and form of the tradition in sometimes unusual ways. For instance, the sound of a lap steel usually conjures up images of loss or pain – here, on ?Be Your Man?, it’s positively jaunty. And how many CDs do you own that credit a washboard player, anyway? Hopefully a recent live return to his avant-garde roots isn’t an indication that Henry feels he’s said all that he can say within this genre. If Wagons? three albums do have to stand as the lasting evidence of his country period, it’ll be a solid legacy to leave behind.