Pistol George Warren’s upcoming sophomore album Mindemoya, trades heavily in geography: the album cover is a stylized map of the Mindemoya region of Manitoulin Island, which includes Mindemoya county and Lake Mindemoya; the album includes two tracks named after the Rocky Mountains; and other tracks contain references to places ranging from Rio de Janeiro to Tobermory. Despite this range of geographical signification, the sound of the album itself relies on the music both of and inspired by a single region: the American South. “Front Porch,” the opening track, starts off a lazy country-rocker before cruising into a full gospel-choir, raging-guitar finale. The soft touches of keyboard and organ bring to mind the jam-rock of the Allman Brothers, while the duelling guitars of songs like “Rocky Mountain Blues, Part II” closely recall the template laid out by Lynyrd Skynyrd and sustained by the Drive-By Truckers. Much like the ‘Truckers, PGW do a good job of balancing their rockers with slower ballads.
PGW seems to be most successful where they bring to mind their Southern-inspired, Ontario-raised predecessors, the Band. Matt Ralph’s fragile vocals in the opening lines of “Rocky Mountain Blues, Part I” are reminiscent of Rick Danko’s wavery voice, while the horn charts that give “No Stranger” its rhythm and blast across “Be Your Dog” are pure Last Waltz. The song “Be Your Dog” brings another association to mind. The lyrics make for an answer Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” though certainly the tone of the two songs couldn’t be more different. Curiously, Ralph’s wail is a fair approximation of what Iggy Pop with a country twang might sound like.
The song which follows “Be Your Dog,” a cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” acts as the spiritual closer of the first act. The songs that follow “Do Right Woman” take a turn for the darker and more elecrified, leaving the good-times bounce of the Band-inspired horns behind for the dark electric guitar work of the ‘Stones in 1972. As I previously noted, PGW works best on this album when copping the Band, so this middle passage marks the low point of the album. That said, the gospel-tinged “Old Like a Stone” is one of my favourite from the album, and lightens this set, while the other songs still represent a young band of considerable talent. This set closes with the second half of “Rocky Mountain Blues,” noted above as an excellent take on Skynyrd-esque guitar rock.
The final three songs, appropriately, are of a quieter variety, focusing more on acoustic strumming and atmospheric steel guitar. Of these three tracks, I’m very fond of “A Voice in the Night,” which reminds me of Langhorn Slim or Joe Pug, if he were backed by a large ensemble. The track has excellent build and sway, giving it a great Southern/folk-rock feel to it, as though one of the Drive-By Trucker’s more epic numbers had been performed by Old Crow Medicine Show.
Overall, the album is a very enjoyable experience, and would feel right at home blaring in the background of some down-home back porch booze cruise. Pistol George Warren create an excellent synthesis of their most obvious influences, and provide interesting avenues for thinking about the relationship between place, meaning and music. They are a very talented young band, and the Southern rock sounds they pursue suit them perfectly. The album comes out later this spring through Cosmic Dave’s Record Factory, and will be available either online or in person, during a Cross-Canada tour this summer.
To satiate your curiousity, dig into the video for the first single below and a live video for non-album track “Paradise.” Stay tuned for more news!
Pistol George Warren, “Front Porch”
Pistol George Warren, “Paradise (Live)”
(PS: A “radio bootleg” of another album track appears to have “snuck” onto YouTube. You didn’t hear it from me.)