I’ve always equated country (and to some degree, Americana) as a never-ending search for a peace of mind that might never appear. The sweet and dark wail of pedal steels conjure the images of dreaming to reach that goal.
So why look for a peace of mind that will never happen? Because the landscapes are beautiful, son. And that’s the other part of Americana that really grabs you, that mostly acoustic sound that paints red soils, eroded canyons and deep green forests, with the occasional electric guitar strum piercing through like a well placed shot from a Winchester rifle.
The Ravenna Colt are firmly located in this genre. Each sound from Terminal Current, their sophomore album, is carefully crafted to the tune of The Greatest American Genre (TM) and although the search might seem fruitless, it’s the journey what matters.
‘Like Pioneers’ opens cautiously the first pages of this new chapter. A drone swells until a guitar mournfully strums. You can even feel the morning dew stuck in the hair of your arms with this slow burner. ‘Absolute Contingency’ wants to pull a smile, but thinks “why fake it?” and dives, head first, into an ocean of sorrow. I want to believe the very atmospheric ‘The Crane Scale’, a gorgeous minimalistic track with an electronics heavy intro, is our dive through that ocean. The song surfaces into “normal” Americana rock from time to time and this dynamic makes it such a joy to listen to. If you want a dreamy flavour in your music, this one is your Huckleberry.
So, besides a personal search, what else does Americana sound like? Well, the open road, of course! Trips through near empty roads, whether in the devastated jungles of suburbia or in the misty hills of the mountain ranges, there’s something in the genre that lends itself to that almost spiritual connection between roads and Americana music. ‘National Dander’ works quite well with drives through deep forests and the urgency in ‘Terminal Current’, another highlight from the album, makes me think of night driving: thoughts are no longer rushing like a drunken crowd doing the jitterbug, now they are easier to catch and put into a semblance of order.
But enough with the analogies. ‘Cold Top Crown Regime’ is one for you who enjoy slow dancing with a significant other (or just by yourself – quite valid.) The “you wear me out” doesn’t feel accusatory; there’s an anger there but it doesn’t seem directed to another person, it seems to be more of a confession. ‘Yutu’ & ‘Impossible Light’ are a perfect combination. The fleeting optimism of ‘Yutu’ hides in its salt of the earth approach to tell a story with no frills attached. ‘Impossible Light’ turns this around, with a breezier spiral emanating from that trusty strum approach. Then that beautiful solo comes out of nowhere and you are no longer alone in this world. ‘Moira’ closes the album on an introspective note. It’s quiet, but it’s not a whimper. Sometimes the loudest emotions are said in a slow voice.
Johnny Quaid‘s voice has always been an interesting part of The Ravenna Colt‘s DNA. By no means your typical Country Western crooner, there’s enough longing in his vocals to elevate the tracks into a higher layer in the sky. There might be some doubt when he delivers the more reassuring lyrics of Terminal Current, and that humanizes the narrator of the nine tracks that make the album. He’s a dreamer, but he gets things done. He’s romantic, but he’s been burned before. He’s been punched, but he rolled with it, and maybe even delivered a haymaker as a counter.
Terminal Current is a very silent but powerful punch. There are no peppy moments like ‘Loner in Disguise’ from Slight Spell, which makes the album a much more introspective trip and sometimes, when you’ve walked so many miles in this journey we call life, a moment to gaze at the vastness of nature to feed that introspection is all you need.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López