The Low Anthem: Smart Flesh

(Nonesuch)

They may be from Providence, Rhode Island, but these guys sound like they were raised in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. Just listening to the spooky Ghost Woman Blues, with its haunted piano and high lonesome vocal will send shivers down your spine.

The secret, evidently, is in the sauce. The band recorded this, their fourth album, in a cavernous abandoned pasta sauce factory, which gives the record its unique atmosphere. Frontman Ben Knox Miller draws the listener in as he weaves his tale of frontier romance on Apothecary Love. The band makes a sonic misstep with the jarring Boeing 737 before settling in to the acoustic American of songs like Love And Alter and Burn, a tune that conjures up more ghosts with a lyric that tells of “the black angel that still clings to my side”. Banjos, harmonicas and steel guitars abound, but it’s Jocie Adams’ classically-inspired clarinet playing and backing vocals that create a point of difference from other rootsy acts like Old Crow Medicine Show.

Miller’s lyrics continue to draw on the dark side on the maudlin I’ll Take Out Your Ashes and Smart Flesh where he suggests “hire yourself a chimney maid and smoke yourself to sleep”. Guilt, sadness, death and redemption, its all here.

Marty Duda

Listen to Apothecary Love from Smart Flesh: