The Death Roots Syndicate: Volume VII by Various Artists

Release date: February 23, 2018
Label: Self-Released

Aficionados say the appeal of Country Music is three chords and the truth. Well the Death Roots Syndicate tells some pretty dark truths, I can tell you. Perusing the tags for The Death Roots Syndicate: Volume VII, tells me this is the genre of “Cemetery Western”. Well that’s a new one on me.

I’ve never really been a fan of either Country or Western** but I did break tradition buying the Country infused album ‘King of America‘, by Elvis Costello way back in 1986. Oh dear… I’m showing my age! That said, I stumbled on the Death Roots Syndicate by following recommendations on Bandcamp last year and haven’t looked back since.

The DR Syndicate have been knocking around since 2007, and have some 85 releases on Bandcamp, the last 7 of which have been Various Artists collections (Make that 86 now that they have released Volume VIII before this review is published). I can recommend them all if you have the time, but let’s just focus on Volume VII for this review. Although the label is based in California, USA, the artists are worldwide. That’s always a good thing in my book.

The album opener is the very catchy, ‘Burning Sky‘ by Mamagigi, who hail from Bilbao, Spain. This is also a track from their second album Pyschobear. Think ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ but with napalm. It’s sets the tone for the album perfectly.

There are 23 tracks on the album, so I won’t bore you with a track by track analysis, but standout tracks to my mind include:

‘Lord Call Me Home’, by Dead Bronco, also from Bilbao, Spain, but founded by a Florida native son. This ‘Suicide Ballad’ also comes from their 5th album ‘Driven By Frustration‘. It’s just glorious.

“If the Lord he wants to call me home, I’d be glad to kill my name”.

Speaking of names, ‘Pigs Ballad‘ by Farty Wayne (more tea vicar?) is a bluesy slide guitar stomp, as is ‘Medium Size Star Bound‘, by The Blues Against Youth. Both acts are from Italy, and much more my cup of tea than Opera at La Scala.

Taste The Barrel‘, by Big John Bates: Noirchestra, is from their album ‘The Headless Fowl‘, and features female vocalist, Brandy Bones, one of the few tracks that has a female perspective. Paddle faster….I hear banjos.

Black Dog‘, by Tiro Williams & the Wild Cowboys is another ballad, from this band based in Londrina, Brazil. Don’t forget to join in with the howling at the end.

“Isn’t this all too depressing?”, I hear you ask (I have very good hearing). Well, don’t take this album, or this genre at face value. The songs are perfectly crafted and delivered. Strings are strummed, packing cases hit with sticks in a rhythmical patter and and tongues placed firmly in cheeks (when not otherwise used in singing). Just take a look at some of the track names:

Crab Crying Blues‘, ‘One Foot In The Grave‘, ‘Till Sudden Death Starts Catching On‘, don’t you just love the imagery?

Years ago Morrissey sang that ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’. We smiled and enjoyed the humour. You’ll love this collection in the same way.

** It’s a Blues Brothers reference.

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