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Wagons

Rumble, Shake & Tumble – 2011 (Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Wagons

Someone should do a study on Australia and determine exactly which environmental factors are involved in the country's steroidal effect on music. No matter the genre, Australians somehow find a way to distill its essence, amplify - literally and figuratively - its most appealing attributes and send it back into the world with considerably more potency than it had when it arrived. Such is the case with Henry Wagons' muscular take on rootsy country music; dare we say Australiana? It seems an description for Wagons' raucous and real American debut, "Rumble, Shake and Tumble."

Given Wagons' propulsive and confident swagger, it seems odd that it's taken over a decade to secure his American debut, but "Rumble, Shake and Tumble" is an almost perfect introduction. The album's opening salvo, Downlow, is a perfect jangly country good girl/bad boy ode, offering up the sound of a roots rock collaboration between Ron Sexsmith and the Heartbreakers, while I Blew It struts and stalks with the dark humor of Johnny Cash and the thrumming intensity of Nick Cave. Like any good country shitkicker, Wagons has a softer side which he ably displays on the sweetly balladic My Daydreams and the more wiry Moon Into the Sun, which features a Cash-like lope and the outlaw version of sentimentality ("My life has been a fucking mess without you...").

Wagons and his crack band pushes those parameters into their particular comfort zone, resulting in a highly entertaining take on a well-traveled style. The back cover photograph on the album shows the eye socket of a cow skull serving as a vase for a handful of weirdly beautiful flowers; it's an effective graphic example of Wagons' ruggedly romantic range here.