Tuesday, April 22, 2014

add 0917 slim cessna

Country-bluegrass-gospel testifiers Slim Cessna's Auto Club have developed a rabid more-than-cult following in their hometown of Denver, CO. Over the course of a half-decade-plus together (in some form or another due to frequent lineup changes), Slim and his band of merry pickers have managed to revivify Appalachian-style gospel-country for an audience of roots-loving twenty- and thirty-somethings tired of the slick Nashville sound. American Country Music Changed Her Life -- a live album recorded at Cessna's home stomping ground, Denver's Bluebird Theater -- is testimony to the band's hard-picking spirit, virtuosity, love of roots country, and appreciation for the diamonds in the rough on the strange side of the tracks. The Auto Club stakes a claim on several covers -- particularly strong here are the Auto Club's haunting take on the traditional "Wade in the Water" and Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night," performed true to the original, but with the throaty, nasal vocal hiccups of Mr. Cessna. These songs are transformed by the band's so-tight-it's-loose chemistry and acoustic-based instrumentation (banjos, accordions, pedal steel guitars). But it's on the up-tempo cuts that you really hear the tent-revival fervor shine through as Cessna commences to yodeling, shouting, whooping, and singing just as purty as a lark as the song, audience, and subject matter see fit -- whether giving voice to a man praying for redemption on the eve of his execution (the rambunctious opener "Lethal Injection") or humbly singing the praises of his lovely betrothed (as on the genuinely touching waltz-ballad "You're Smiling at Me"). And, lo, though some of the songs are specifically Christian standards, the speaking-in-tongues fever pitch into which Cessna and company whip the crowd is a universal ritual of musical connection. The set list is testimony to the power of even the most neglected (in pop music terms, anyway) music when played with passion. The closest thing to being there, American Country Music Changed Her Life will make you wish you had.

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