Through a Dark Country

Werewolf Ballads (Independent)
Slithering Beast

By Tim Roberts

Southern gothic music: where the stories common to country music (unfaithful lovers, hearts broken so much the pieces never fit back together right, beer chugging and whiskey sloshing in a smoke-laden honky tonk, good dogs and the freedom of roaring down the highway in a dependable pickup truck) get a dark twist.

Unfaithful lovers are hunted down like animals, hearts are ground into dust, whiskey gets poured by the bottle - full down into empty stomachs in bars where nails poke up from the loose floorboards and trucks are abandoned by the side of the road after they've stopped running for the 100th time. Damn thing never ran right after that last accident, anyway. Lucky it didn't stop after the first four.

It's the realm of such bands as the Drive By Truckers. And now it welcomes Southern Indiana band Slithering Beast with its debut release, Werewolf Ballads.

Things are bleak in Slithercountry as depicted on Ballads. Don't look for optimism or hope in any of the 14 tracks. These are stories about guys who embolden themselves to drive drunk (found, coincidentally, in "Driving Drunk"), dreamers who decry the environment in which they live but can't move themselves out of it ("S.I.S."), who get robbed after leaving work late at night ("I Got Robbed"), whose lives are packed to the hairline with paranoia ("The Day I Went Crazy") and who want to drive in the spikes of revenge on an unfaithful lover ("Woman I'm Burning Down the House").

But, somehow, the nearly pure country music that drives the songs keeps them from being too morose and depressing. The sound is full of banjo, harmonica, mandolin and acoustic guitar, so it's hard not to see through the hairline chink in their nihilistic armor and get a tiny glimpse of some sunshine and party fun.

It's the spoonful of sugar that helps the corn liquor of Werewolf Ballads go down without blowtorching holes in your stomach.

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