The Hidden Hand - _The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote_
(Southern Lord, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (8 out of 10)
With the war in Iraq an almost distant if still acrid taste in most people's mouths, scene vet Scott "Wino" Weinrich has elevated his lyrical sights above the current international fray and, with this year's _The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote_, opts for arch commentary on the history of American idealism. Not that he gets -too- specific, however; Whiskey Foote is a fictional first or second generation American struggling to make his way in an early land peppered with political rivalries and internecine strife. It's insinuated that he dies a martyr (although how exactly is left to the imagination) and his name rings through the ages like a talisman off the lips of the oppressed, giving hope and uniting the downtrodden toward a common good. Alright, so where's the cover of "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night"?

Thematic pretensions aside, The Hidden Hand do a more than fair job of balancing somber mood pieces with righteous jam-kicking. First track proper, "Someday Soon", bears the closest resemblance to Wino's legacy building work in St. Vitus and The Obsessed, a molasses drenched romp through some pre-civilized tar pit the band seems to have conjured up right there in the studio. It's a somewhat rudimentary composition, and the contrast offered by the upbeat swagger of "Dark Horizons" is somewhat welcome, particularly in regard to the pounding yet jazzy backbeat. "Majestic Presence" is more insistent still, as the entire group loses itself in grooves etched so deep they qualify as full blown canyons.

The deeper into side two you get, the more the southern rock / Muscle Shoals influence emerges, coming to full fruition with "Lightning Hill", replete with an Allman Brothers-inspired primary riff and a bit of the old harmonica thrown in for added flavor. "Slow Rain" brings it all back down to earth with ringing, hollowed out chords and sleigh bell tambourines propping up Wino's sober meditations, all building toward a great '80s-reminiscint dual guitar breakdown and subsequent ambient drum solo. A strange way to end an otherwise pretty straightforward album, but it works and, besides, that's just the way Wino rolls, baby.


(article published 21/5/2007)

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