By Tina Siegel, CKLU for the Lambda
I’ll start this review with a confession: I’d never heard Murder Murder’s music before writing this review.
I’d heard of them, of course. But I couldn’t have picked one of their songs out of a top ten line-up until three days ago.
You see, nobody ever told me that they sing about murder.
I love mysteries, the bloodier the better. Not exactly high literature, I admit. But terrifically entertaining. So an entire band – an entire bluegrass band – devoted to my favourite guilty pleasure? Yes, please!
Sudbury-born and bread, the band describes itself as bloodgrass (a combination of bluegrass + outlaw country + exclusively murder ballads). They took two titles in this year’s CBC Searchlight contest – Champions and Audience Pick – as well as a 2015 NOFMA Best Songwriter nomination.
Their latest album, From the Stillhouse, features 11 murderous tracks. It’s full of twangy, bloody melodies and even bloodier fables, and it’s all entirely satisfying.
A few of my favourites include:
Duck Cove: The tension between the driving, military rhythm and the blue-grassy feel is terrific.
The Last Gunfighter Ballad: I love the story, here. There’s nothing like an epic old ballad.
When the Lord Calls Your Name: Incisive lyrics that pit saint against sinner. Really well-written.
Half-hitch Knot: Darkest track on the album, I’d say. Shows up nicely against the cheery, lilting rhythm.
There’s a very specific sound and feel, here – banjo, violin, and a rollicking beat underpin each song. In many ways, it’s very traditional bluegrass. But don’t judge too quickly. Murder Murder combines snappy twang with light, literate, occasionally chilling lyrics. The result is unlike anything else out there.
But don’t take my word for it. According to Quipmag.ca, “the boys of Murder Murder have taken this century-old tradition and added a unique mark on the contemporary Canadian folk community.” As CBC Hamilton’s Adam Carter declared: “Flipping a genre on its head has never been more subversive, or more fun.” And Greyowl Point says: “There’s a lot to love, despite all the spilt blood.”
So it’s not just me.
If you love bluegrass, or murder mysteries, or enjoy supporting local bands, then check out Murder Murder. In the Stillhouse is available at murdermurder.bandcamp.com.