Loners Society

King City Sessions EP

Written by: AP on 09/02/2014 19:10:39

It was not without some likeness to being cast into a pool full of sharks that I opted to pick Charleston, NC based Loners Society's new EP "King City Sessions" for review. Not only does the band deal in alt-country, which those of you who regularly read my reviews will know is about as familiar a genre to me as black metal is to Britney - the EP is also the product of a live session that appears to have been recorded at a store or café of some sort before a seated audience. But as critics, we must of course strive to have an open mind and to maintain a broad spectrum so as to have perspective.

An interesting fact to note is that were it not for the EP's title, and the eruption of whistles and applause at the beginning of "LaGrange", it would be difficult to guess "King City Sessions" to be a live recording, such is the crispness of the production, the balance of the instruments, and the total absence of glitches. But that is perhaps to be expected with the stripped-to-basics setup of an acoustic guitar (Matt Megrue), clean electric guitar (Dan Rainey), bass (Dallas Corbett), pedal steel (Charlie Thompson) and drums (either Brian McMickle or Josh Beasley - I am not entirely certain).

With singer-songwriter Megrue very much at the forefront, the EP is best described as lyrical alt-country, his life and experiences, thoughts and feelings forming the backbone of the songs, which sway between warm nostalgia and brooding melancholy. Obviously the presence of the pedal steel, harmonica, and a rhythm section reminiscent on the more upbeat tracks ("LaGrange" & "Pinstripes") of Johnny Cash; is not entirely secondary, given its contribution of texture and atmosphere to the songs. But above all it is the extremely relatable and emotionally testing lyricism, not to mention the excellent voice and knack of Megrue to tie his stories around extremely memorable verses and choruses, that gives "King City Sessions" its allure. Perhaps the most compelling example of Megrue's eloquent, yet realist storytelling (which reminds me of similarly talented gentlemen such as Brian Fallon, Chuck Ragan and Frank Turner) comes is to be found in the stunning ballad "All You Need Is Love", which despite its archaic title is an emotive, thought-provoking musing on a topic that is both dear and painful to Americans in particular:

It's the opening scene of a Hollywood war. It goes down exactly the same as before. They get you to fear them, they get you to fight. They wink and they smile, then the stored wood is right. When the youth come home in a pine set box serenaded with 21 shots. And you fight for your country, then what do you get? A medal, a flag and a wage. Then you're tossed to the side like a used cigarette. To save those who cannot be saved, all you need is love. All you need is love... And It's a cruel, cruel world that'll take a young man, and expose him to things he can't quite comprehend. But a diet of pills helps to cope with the pain, and balance his mind from going insane from fighting the demons of a president's war. How long will we allow our lives to be used as pawns for political gain? Well, change will continue to be just a word, 'til we all stand and sing: all you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love."

Delivered in a somber tone not at all unlike John Lennon's "Working Class Hero", the exchange between a sorrowful, wailing harmonica and Megrue's strained voice is genuinely touching whether or not its thematic content sits close to your heart or not (the song is obviously quite personal, as betrayed by Megrue explaining before its beginning that he has been "fighting with" it since 2008 before deciding to finally play and record it now, six years later). "Autumn Breeze", too, has this quality, Megrue introducing it with the wrenching hook "I can feel the autumn breeze / blowing in from Tennessee / and it soaks my nights in whiskey dreams / Oh, cruel wind, just speak to me" in a quivering voice, before a wah-wah lead kicks its into gear; and eventually concluding the EP in turbo-charged country-punk madness.

There's an honesty and poetry to the songs here that has me by the reins instantly, and the fact that the three remaining songs, "LaGrange", "Jersey Devil" and "Pinstripes" have not been mention in this review yet in any great length should not suggest they're inferior. There's at least two parts to every song that have me thinking, "Wow! That's fantastic, what they've done there instrumentally!", or "Damn, those are some exceptional lyrics!", so despite showing no interest in reinventing the wheel, "King City Sessions" is a piece of music that'll stick more with each consecutive listen. Arguably it's the band's adherence to trusty formulas that makes it seem so familiar and welcoming, and in any case, the sincerity of these songs is absolutely infectious.

8

Download: Jersey Devil, All You Need is Love, Autumn Breeze
For the fans of: Dave Hause, The Gaslight Anthem, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Listen: Facebook

Release date 11.02.2014
Autumn + Colour Records

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