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7/10 Richard Customer review, 11th July 2013
The Baptist Generals’ debut album ‘Dog’ was a John Peel favourite, back when Denton, TX seemed to be centre of the universe. Chris Flemmons’ blood- and wine-soaked voice could have quite easily been from a long-lost Lomax recording and was the definite highlight of Dog’s ultra lo-fi swamp spirituals.
Sub Pop debut ‘No Silver, No Gold’ moved away from home-recording techniques and the band lost a little of their demented charm in the process. The new record ‘Jackleg Devotional to the Heart’ moves even further from the murky sounds of old. Flemmons has reined in his howl and uses it as the primary means for carving out melody. Whilst the instrumentation is broad and adventurous, there is a definite imbalance of power as the vocals are always at the forefront – perhaps a little too high in the mix.
The title of the LP describes aptly its sound, as these could loosely be understood as devotional songs that often rely on the repetition or rephrasing of a simple central idea – Lungfish come to mind at times (and that is no bad thing). Despite the new hi-fi approach, the band have retained some of their essential oddness: “Broken Glass” is a hillbilly power ballad, with some added marimba.
Possibly the strangest thing about ‘Jackleg Devotional’ is that, for the most part, it gets stronger as it goes along, which is something all too rare. The brittle ‘Snow on the FM” ushers in three fragile songs that allow Flemmons to demonstrate both the range of his voice and a new-found vulnerability in his writing. The only disappointment on the second side is the closer, “Oblivion Overture”, where any sense of oblivion is smothered by the schmaltzy arrangement.
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