Pete Ross & The Sapphire
Rollin On Down The Lane
added: 12 Feb 2013
// release date: 10 Dec 2012 // label: Beast Records / Cargo
reviewer: Claudia A
These days, it’s standard practice to churn out new movies with a soundtrack in tow. But what if a new album is so sharp and clever, it begs to be turned into a movie?
Welcome to the twisted world of Pete Ross
(vox/guitars) and Susy Sapphire
(vox/bass), a gifted Aussie & Kiwi duo now based in Italy.
Their new release is titled ‘Rollin On Down The Lane’
, and folks we’re talking a dark and dangerous one indeed!
We’re also talking an album which, from opening to closing track, reveals a story that would give David Lynch
a run for his money!
Rather than cough up some songs that have Nick Cave
written all over (and the majority of compositions strongly lean on Cave!), Ross and The Sapphire came up with a killer concept: three songs (namely track 1, track 6, and track 10) are related to one another in so far that they build the ‘framework’, while the remaining songs are loosely connected to it, albeit variable.
On opener ‘Pleased To Meet You’ we briefly get to hear the doom-laden sound of bells, and it becomes apparent that bad things are looming in the wings. And so they do:
“She never said her name
When she came in from the rain
She never said her name
But she came in all the same
She killed a man she said
She’d bashed in his head
And she left him lying dead.”
That’s the prelude to this unholy trilogy, while the overall structure of the ‘chapters’ is the real ace up Sapphire’s sleeve (for it is she who came up with idea and lyrics).
In the first part, we are introduced to a young woman on the run from murdering her husband, Billy. She confides into a stranger whom by chance she meets while on the run, and gradually reveals more of her background. In a nutshell, we learn that she met her husband when she was just 17, that she fell pregnant, that both ran away because her parents were ashamed, and that a nasty piece of work called Bobby Pin took them in and ‘helped them out’. More to the point, he made Billy work in a dodgy business that he couldn't extricate himself from. Meanwhile, the young woman paid Bobby in ‘other’ ways.
In the second part (which is actually track 6, ‘Late Last Night’), we get to hear Bobby Pin’s side of the story, and learn that the woman’s name is Jenna. However, in his version things unfold differently: after having killed her husband with a poker, Jenna took his gun and made her way to Bobby’s house to kill him too. But she missed, and now it’s Bobby trying to track her down.
In the third part (track 10, ‘The Great Mistake’), it’s Jenna’s dead husband, Billy, who tells things from his perspective - and from beyond the grave! He reckons that he wasn’t such a bad guy really, and that it was only due to Bobby’s shady business that he started drinking and treating his wife badly.
So that’s the narrative of the framework, told from three different perspectives – though we can never be quite sure who’s lying and who tells the truth.
Pete Ross’ gravely voice lends itself perfectly to SING the gruesome tale, while the smoky tones contribute to the dramatics. The opener is particularly nifty, as it features both Sapphire and Ross, who’s simultaneously recounting.
It all gets trickier as the story goes on, for while Ross slips into the different male characters (Stranger, Billy, and Bobby) he has, of course, only one voice… A fair bit of attention is required to keep up with the constant change of characters and in order not to lose the plot (and guess who’d almost lost it?).
The musical arrangement builds gradually, and the dark-hearted atmosphere is further emphasized through Gianluca De Rubertis organ spiel.
The faster paced and altogether punchier ‘Devil Inside’ already got reviewed on Music-News, as it’s the album’s single release. With its thumping bass line intro and the chorus >“She’s the devil inside, she’ll make you unclean… she will enter your mind and reason will flee…” this is one of the first songs connected to the framework tracks.
‘Shadow (Man) and ‘Corinne’ are on the mellow side by contrast, delivered only with bare instrumentation (consisting mainly of guitar, piano and the occasional organ). The lines are delivered clear and clean, and once again it’s the female backing vocalse that add to the beauty of the compositions. The songs have a ballad feel to them, reminding me of Washington based alt-folk duo Vandaveer
We’re returning to Nick Cave territory on ‘Late Last Night’. Sizzling with menace, it pushes the listener into an auditory abyss. The seething mood of ‘To The Wind’ lies not far behind, expanding the sonic tension.
‘Corn Silk Hair’ throws hints at Jenna’s suicide with a gun… Indirectly connected, it’s a grievous lament and the fine ‘ensemble cast’ performs in a suitably morose and mournful manner. Andrea Rizzo
on drums, Dimi Dero
on percussion/effects, and Sophie Perez
on additional backing vocals complete the cast.
Finally, ‘The Great Mistake’ comes across as a slice of ‘grand chanson’ in the spirit of Jaques Brel
. That’s somewhat ironic bearing in mind that the song’s words are those of dead man Billy.
As a special treat, ‘Rollin On Down The Lane’
contains two exquisite cover versions, namely a temporary arrangement of Townes Van Zandt’s
‘Rake’, as well as Tom Waits’
Jesus Gonna Be There’. I consider this to be a particularly inspired move, for thematically, both songs go with the lyrical content of the trilogy.
Admittedly, glad tidings of happiness roll along strictly rationed on the album, but this ‘Grand Guignol-style rock opera’ is bound to thrill anyone with a penchant for unsettling and disturbing tales.
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