Things could always be worse. That seems to be the intended take home from this set of tunes written and sung by The Pawn Shop Saints' guiding light Jeb Barry. But there's so little by way of uplift that you're equally likely to conclude that things are never so bad that they can't get worse.
Barry is backed by Mike O’Neill on guitars, Josh Pisano on drums and Chris Samson on bass but the arrangements are so sparse you could easily imagine the songs performed solo.
The nine tracks are the pick of fifty songs Barry wrote in fifty days while traveling through Appalachia including three he wrote in a Nashville hotel room.
The album is billed as being centered on snapshots of "ordinary folks trying to get through life’s hard times.". Judging by the relentlessly downbeat mood, these men and women are not making much progress on the survival front.
The Lo-fi gothic folk of Body in The River was inspired by the Nashville Flood of 2010 and its focus on a unidentified corpse is dour to the point of dismal.
Ain’t No Mama Here is introduced as "A gospel inspired Dust Bowl imaged song of hard times and high anxiety" and is every bit as bleak as this description suggests.
Even a reminiscing tune about the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd ends up reflecting morbidly on the deaths of that band's key members in a plane crash in 1977.
The closing track Dry River Song should by rights be a fond memory of dating a girl in carefree days but is like Southern rock minus the boogie.
Sad songs are all about light and shade. All you get here is the shade.
Jeb Barry's website