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Panther Creek Recording: CD Reviews

Simon Flory

With Unholy Town , Simon Flory has released a remarkable, and remarkable sounding album. The songwriting and the production of this Arkansas-written and Arkansas-produced effort rival anything issued from the well-appointed studios of Nashville. 

The veteran lead man of the late and lamented Merle the Mule (Chicago) has spent the last few years in Arkansas, writing good Country songs that evoke – according to this web site – a “Mythical Red-State Americana.” Lest the potential listener suspect Flory’s work of creepy right-wing political nonsense, rest assured that whomever wrote that blurb had to be referring to the aching ambivalence of people living in places like Arkansas regarding strict adherence to a presumed set of white-picket-fence values. Flory paints rhymes that drive home the disappointment of lost places, and of times that probably never existed. 

From the first track his melancholy sound references Gram Parsons, and the overall feel of the project will satisfy any Parsons zealot – like this reviewer. But Flory’s themes also depart significantly from Parsons’ “hippie country” vibe. Songs like the ballad Shelby Bridge spin tales of specific times, places, and stories that the hippies eschewed in favor of deeply felt, but vague emotion. The misty moral wavering in Crazy With the Heartbetrays hardly a hint of regret as the hung-over morning-after hero investigates the mystery of an empty bed and a missing car. 

Flory also demonstrates a firm grasp on Honkytonk, the strength of Merle the MuleGhost Woman Blues and the title track, Unholy Town, both swing admirably, driven by the solid drumming of Bill Brown. Here the sound departs from Parsons, and one cannot help but hear the solid West Texas swing of Joe Ely. 

The collection closes with the soaring Country gospel sound of Up Yonder. If a nod to Red-State Americana requires that the artist demonstrate the ability to blow down the clapboard walls of a whitewashed Delta chapel, then Flory deserves a seat in the front pew of new Country artists. 

I never knew what the term “Alt-Country” was supposed to mean, but have been informed that it applies to Parsons and Ely. I doubt if either of those artists do (or did) think of themselves that way. Perhaps the same applies to Simon Flory. If this album is accepted as Alt-Country, it is not. It is Country Music. Really good Country Music. 

Did you like that? Buy Simon's album now, after you buy Foz the Hook'sGin-Soaked Yankee and Other Disgraces. 

Your Pal, 

Foz the Hook - FozBlog (Aug 10, 2011)