There is just something amazingly cool about dark, angry indie-country. Haunting melodies, minor chords, screaming, all set to the backdrop of old school country music totally intrigues me. Frank Smith doesn't go for the old-timey sound of bands like Blanche. They are gimmick free, performing well-crafted banjo-fueled songs about the shitty state of current politics, the apocalypse and abuse. You'll definitely need a whiskey drink to numb the pain when they are done, but it is well worth it.
Although they perform as a seven piece in their hometown of Boston, last night we watched a slightly smaller version of the band at NYC's Mercury Lounge. By smaller, they were still five members strong, only missing slide guitar and keyboards. As powerful as their set was last night, I can only imagine how great they must be when operating at 100%.
It was a stage full of pearl snaps when they began their early set, kicking off at shortly past 8pm. For such an early show in NYC, the band's devoted following brought in a good number of people. Since I am only familiar with their most recent album, Red On White, they seemed to play a good mix of older material along with the new tunes.
One thing that stood out was the stellar musicianship of every band member, from the shuffle beat of the drums, the intricate plucking of the banjo, all supporting the gruff vocals of Sinclair. Standouts from their forty minute set included the chilling "Apocalypse Circa: Now" and the upbeat, politically charged "It Ain't Right." Another was the blazing "Black And Blue," filled with some mad banjo playing, screaming harmonica set to a near-maddening beat.
It comes as no surprise to hear that Sinclair's roots are back in Texas. Fans of Okkervil River and Whiskeytown should pick up a copy of Red On White as soon as possible. I've got a feeling once music fans outside of the Boston & NYC area experience Frank Smith for themselves, big things will be in store for that band.