Guest writer: Graham Thompson
With a name like Buffalo Jack and The Parlor Snakes, you know they are American, but not your average rock band. And the album’s title Where Judas Left His Boots lends itself to more mystery than anything else.
Judas is very American swamp-rock/ rockabilly and very alternative, to say the least. To say the most, it nicely paints a picture of fall and redemption with references to the American South and delivers an emotional (and sometimes drunken) walk through a landscape of oak and cypress trees and excellent musical textures that sound at times like early L.A. punkabilly and sometimes early Sun Records influences, but with a dark twist. But you won’t hear anything like this. Imagine Carl Perkins revving up, ominously singing about losing control of his girl. It is gripping to listen to and the songs are both haunting and addictive. Opening song When I Change says it all. “When I change, locks get opened. When I change, things get broken.”
Interestingly, The Parlor Snakes’ bio reads that they are well educated and two of them come from rock and goth roots in an earlier signed group that experienced friction with their label, which ultimately meant the demise of the group altogether. Sometime after that, singer/songwriter Patrick Coleman sent a disk full of demo songs to friend Tryg Has-Ellison simply labeled “Buffalo Jack” which was filled with dark swampy tunes. Being well enamored with the musical direction, he then sent the newfound sound on an adventurous trajectory under the new name Buffalo Jack and The Parlor Snakes, beginning with bringing onboard a host of interesting characters to record Where Judas Left His Boots.
Patrick Coleman’s singing is both haunting and evocative, while John Tryve Has-Ellison took up slide guitar, accentuating the dark, swampy and sometimes chaotic backdrop of the album (both from The Netherworld). Rob Beltz is on bass and Josh Glidden is on drums. Lead guitarist Jim Duckworth, who was in L.A. band Gun Club and Panther Burns brings a bluesy drive to the music and Bobby Black, from Commander Cody and Asleep At The Wheel, plays pedal steel, adding a heroin quality.
The overall mood of the album is brooding, but not depressing at all. The songs pick up, sometimes into agitation and then sink into a cloud of euphoria, always moving forward, seemingly, to the edge of a cliff. At the end of the album set is a song called Ghost Limosine that tells a story of a “long dark car” outside his window waiting to take him to his final judgement. It is eerie, but after a buildup, breaks into a hard punkabilly drive to its final destination.
In final review, Buffalo Jack and The Parlor Snakes’ album Where Judas Left His Boots is masterful in its songwriting and execution and also magical. One gets a sense that there is a protagonist that your heart goes after and you are pulling for him. The edginess is excellent throughout with plenty of dynamic changes that keep you hooked in for the ride. I found myself starting the CD over again after it ended. If you are a fan of the L.A. punkabilly/swampabilly sound, you will want to hear this. This is new.
Buffalo Jack & The Parlor Snakes are on Cole-Has Records. On tour starting spring 2017.
Available on iTunes and other download stores and CD Baby where you can listen first.