Ace-High Debut Album from Concrete Prairie

Some albums are an immediate love at first listen, but as time passes you start to see holes. Others take time to digest, growers; you learn to love them. Going in blind on this one, I’ve seen the Swindon-based band name floating around locally, favourites at The Tuppenny, Trowbridge’s Pump, and they knocked it out of Town Gardens at My Dad’s Bigger Than Your Dad. I’ve listed them on our event calendar, and well, guess I just liked the ironic rootsy name, Concrete Prairie, reminding me of Marley’s Concrete Jungle. I was more than pleasantly surprised.…..

It did both, an immediate love, ever-growing. There’re no holes here, their self-titled debut album, out tomorrow (2nd September) is made from solid rhinestone. Solemn when needed, indignantly peppy otherwise, but always chiaroscuro and earnest. Americana, folk noir, of the like of Johnny Cash, vocally akin, with the depth and command of Jim Morrison, and, I kid you not, dammit it’s on that greatness level too.

There are secret treasures buried here, though lyrics chant, “you know when shit hits the fan, I’ll be the man who’s picking up pieces,” its humble Nashville-esque beginnings doesn’t prepare you fully for the finale. The Devil Dealt the Deck is an ambitious tragedy-come-rhapsody ending, it is their Stairway to Heaven, bronc-riding Othello, sublimely moreish.

Betwixt them are eight other solid and lengthy tunes, caringly crafted, exceptionally well delivered. Ballads of Bakersfield backbeat like I Wish you Well roll into the particularly Cash sounding Day by Day, merging into acoustic fingerstyle backwood blues rock by the haunting Hard Times, when things suddenly head foot-stomping bluegrass. By the upbeat People Forget you’re fully immersed in its evocative depictions, as it weaves and blends all subgenres in-between, wonderfully wrapped in this aforementioned dark prose.

Astonished I messaged them, to confirm this was their debut album, all too easy to perceive this as the project of legendary rock stars who hoisted in the best producer to reconnect their roots after decades of golden discography. They did in fact, find the ears of John Reynolds, producer for The Indigo Girls, Damien Dempsey and Sinead O’Connor.

Take the forlorn howl of Guthrie in his darkest moment, there’s broken characters of Springsteen’s Nebraska in the narrative too, yet somehow those desperate nuances here rise above both their melancholic murmur; it’s got edge but at best times it rides it frenetic and fierce; rootin’, tootin’ and a-shootin’!

Joe, from the band tells me, “It’s been a few years in the making due to some somewhat global delays!” But comparable to an artist who cannot leave a painting alone for finishing touches, it’s obvious after a listen, there’s a serious amount of work gone into this. Yet no one creates their magnum opus so early, surely? I confess I liked Springsteen’s inaugural The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle, or Floyd’s Meddle better than the matured Born to Run or Dark Side of the Moon, but I accept their place is lesser popularly; if this then is the par of those, I want to be around when they do their masterwork.

There’s a fair bit of cliché Americana around and about, wishy-washy mediocre, but these guys aren’t sitting around a campfire with a can of beans playing the fart game here, this is concentrated, solid material, a real sheriff’s badge. This is how it should be done, if you catch my drift, and its equal distance away from Achy Breaky Heart as acid-techno is!

Launch day is tomorrow, across streaming platforms. CDs are up for pre-order on Amazon and the album will also be seeing a vinyl release: link here.

They’re play Swindon Shuffle, and there’s an album launch at Moles, Bath, Saturday 3rd September with Barney Kenny in support. Tickets here, are just a fiver.


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