This Chicago acoustic folk trio celebrate 30 years together with their ninth studio album featuring 16 original songs and over an hour’s worth of music.
Pandemic restrictions forced Sue Demel, Deborah Lader and Bruce Roper to work separately but still manage to sound unified. They also called upon a range of collaborators to make guest appearances.
Despite the album’s title and Deborah Lader’s gothic cover artwork, the focus is on hope and harmony with the threat of the grim reaper staying safely in the background.
Listeners(and the Federal Communications Commission) are reassured that there is “no unsuitable language” and the gospel slant of many tunes means that the record often seems like a collection of modern religious hymnals (check out Higher Ground, Saints And The Martyrs and the ‘hear me Lord’ thrust of From Where The Strings Descend )
The opening Muddy Muddy River brings to mind the baptism scene in 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou?' while the closing song, In The End, has an organ and guest choir to emphasize the Churchy overtones.
Female voices are pleasingly to the fore although Bruce Roper is credited as sole composer of eight of the songs and is lead vocalist on five of these. This includes Oh Chocolay, a quirky story song of a mermaid and a boatman and the playful Om Not This Time. A tabla is featured on the latter and blends in well.
More incongruous is Larry Clyman’s electric guitar on Bob & Socrates (written and sung by Sue Demel). Acoustic instrumentation with occasional strings are more in keeping with the album’s soft, warm-hearted mood.
Set Us To Praying, another Demel composition, is a lively spiritual waltz dedicated to the memory of the late John Prine.
Only on Everyone’s In The House, a cloying song of domestic bliss, and the aptly titled This Is Pretty Too does all the sweetness get a little too sickly to stomach.
Otherwise, this set of tastefully melodic tunes glosses breezily over the evils of the world to the extent that even death doesn’t cast too dark a shadow. Real life undertakers may feel short changed.
Sons of the Never Wrong’s website