Release Date: January 29th, 2016
Label: Mudtown Records
You can never get too much of a good thing. ‘Black Country’ is absolutely drenched in reverb, but as the album trundles along your smile just gets bigger. “Gimme more of that,” you say. Josh Richardson obliges and it’s not just the reverb that he gives you more of. Fact is, the album starts out strong and gets better and better with each track.
“Black Gold” opens the record with some gorgeous alt-country ambience, highlighted by the pedal steel of Aaron Goldstein. Even while these golden sounds are still bouncing around your head, the next track kicks in and that’s when things really get interesting. The mix is deep and full, with psychedelic flourishes cropping up here and there. The sweet pipes of Megan Hamilton provide the perfect foil for Richardson’s deeper voice, even though both vocals are buried way down in the atmospheric swirl.
“White Man (You Ruined Everything)” features a more prominent acoustic guitar, even though overall the track is dense with ambient textures. This one has more of a country feel to it, but it’s along the lines of a prog band doing a pastiche of country, especially when one considers the burst of noise that breaks in towards the end – a noise that has prog metal written all over it.
“Slow Dancing” and “Dead Horse” exhibit definite alt-country leanings (although the former could be on a David Lynch soundtrack), but you get more hints of Black Country’s true nature with “Long Winter”. Despite its folksy guitar, this one sounds for all the world like the achingly beautiful ballad that you wished Roger Waters had sung on ‘The Wall’.
After a dose of truly heavy guitar on “Rose of Sharon” you reach the album’s climax and the truth is finally revealed. “Deep Dark Blue” hits you with loud, droning metal that is laden with psych heaviosity. As a prog guitar sends blasts echoing around the room you realize that this is not an alt-country record at all. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is post-rock. It’s ambient drone metal, with the country/folk thing just thrown in for flavour. Richardson may well have absorbed the rural vibe of his environs (Black Country are from Owen Sound) but his dream-inducing music is so cosmic that you feel a doorway has opened up to another plane.
Perhaps the most impressive thing of all is that this is essentially a one-man show. Yes he invited along a few guest musicians, but Josh Richardson wrote and performed (almost) all of the material entirely on his own. It is hard to believe that these richly layered sound structures are the product of primarily one person because the music stands so tall. So tall, in fact, that this humble, earthly realm is not big enough to contain it.