We've gone over and over in this space what we should be calling "country" and what we should not be. Let's not rehash that pop rock garbage that mainstream media outlets will tell you is country. After all you could put a cowboy hat on a pig but that doesn't make it a cowboy now does it. Instead let's celebrate when someone actually puts out a record that proudly wears the "country" label the right way. Enter Michigan's Rachel Brooke.
Brooke's version of country is a dark and Gothic portrayal of the genre. It's soaked in whiskey and gin and lit on fire like a jilted lover taking down her beau's barn and homestead. Brooke writes songs that are meant to be a little dangerous and she successfully blends old school country with Chicago style blues and New Orleans jazz. Etta James once said that country and the blues were "kissing cousins". Brooke has them at the altar in a shotgun wedding where the eventual offspring is the bastard love child of Hank Williams and Lightnin' Hopkins.
Based solely on the amount of American music history she encapsulates in her sound, Rachel Brooke is as "Americana" as they come. Brooke's newest full-length album, A Killer's Dream, is the perfect album for people who eschew digital for vinyl. In other words, it's an album that speaks to a different time in the American lexicon. A time when songs told stories and sometimes those stories were ones your straight-laced parents didn't want you to hear. Brooke's voice is beautifully haunting and wails and moans in ways that most modern day crooners only wish they could. She lures you in with that voice so she and her band can shanghai you back in time to some smokey, dust-floored bar room on the seedy side of town. It's a wild ride and one that may leave you misty-eyed and hungover but good country (and blues and jazz) will always do that to you.
You can hear selections from A Killer's Dream and previous Rachel Brooke releases on her SoundCloud page.
Rachel Brooke plays Tuesday, March 26 at Arch Street Tavern in Hartford with Becky Kessler and Ponybird. She also plays Wednesday, March 27 at the Oasis Pub in New London with James Maple of GraveRobbers. Two chances not to be missed!