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Hyacinth House - Black Crows' Country

  by John Clarkson

published: 25 / 5 / 2008

Hyacinth House - Black Crows' Country
Label: Glitterhouse Records
Format: CD


Mainly convincing second album from promising group Hyacinth House, which despite a poor ending, will otherwise be much enjoyed by fans of 70's-tinged blues rock

On their just released second album, 'Black Crows' Country', Hyacinth House have recorded some of the most authentic-sounding Southern blues rock since Duane Allman crashed his motorbike in Macon and Lynyrd Skynyrd got on their ill-fated plane to Baton Rouge. Ironically, however, Hyacinth House, who take their name from a song on the Doors' final album, 'L.A. Woman', are not from Georgia or Alabama, or even California, but Sweden, and the bulk of 'Black Crows' Country' was recorded in the band's own Gometta Studio, which is situated in a log cabin in a remote Scandinavian forest. The group, a sextet, is centered around vocalist and acoustic and electric guitarist Mack Johansson and his brother Fredrik "Freddy" (banjo, dobro and harmonicas) who co-share most of the songwriting credits. It also features Andreas Berg (electric guitar), Peter "Peps" Noren, John Nyberg (drums and percussion), and Kristina Lofstedt (cello). Many of the fourteen songs on 'Black Crows' Country' are infused with a restless outlaw spirit. "I'm a raven in crows country" howls Mack Johansson in the chorus of the title track. Travel is also a major theme, which suits the music, much of which has a chugging, galloping sound.'European Rails' tells of a nightmarish backpacking trip through Eastern Europe, and 'Road to Flowers' is another tale of on-the-road life. Hyacinth House are perhaps at their best on these tracks, which combine gritty, slashing guitars with Mack's throaty vocals and Freddy's clip-clopping banjo and trilling peals of harmonica. They are, however, far from a one trick outfit. The brooding 'Whiskey Nights', which thrusts guest musician Johan Somevag's stabbing piano to the fore, is genuinely moving in its rumbling hungover melancholy and morning after self-disgust ("Well, damn those whiskey nights/When my visions are live wires/and your skin is moonlight and warm/and your eyes are wet asphalt roads") The fluttering acoustic folk of 'Numb the Heart', about a woman fallen on hard times ("God I see the shape Linda's in/Her shape on the ground like a heavy chain") and 'Beyond the End', which moves from the balladic to the epic and is a reflection on mortality ("Just generations at a loss/in these cold cold nights"), are also similarly poignant. 'Black Crows' Country' is, however, not without major flaws. At 55 minutes it is too long, and both 'A Ticket Out of Here (Take 86'), which appears third from the end, and the final track 'Unwieldy Farmers' Blues' in particular could each have done with being cut. Each descends into ham-fisted silliness, slamming down of instruments and wild cackles of laughter, breaking much of the mood and powerful melancholy which has built up before, and bringing 'Black Crows' Country' to an irritating and stilted end, severed from the rest of the album. Yet despite the awful conclusion, 'Black Crows' Country' has though much to offer, revealing a highly promising and dynamic act who will hopefully be able to resist such self-destructive tendencies on their next record. The last few minutes are largely best avoided, but 'Black Crows' Country' otherwise should be much enjoyed by fans of 70's-tinged blues rock.

Track Listing:-
1 Rosewood Country Club
2 Black Crows' Country
3 Road to Flowers
4 Lucky Stranger
5 European Rails
6 Whisky Nights
7 Swedish Signs On Monkey Island
8 Numb the Heart
9 Mundus Vult Decipi, Ergo Dicipiatur
10 Pete La Las
11 Two White Men in a Black Car and a Ticket Out of Here (Take 86)
12 Beautiful Cold City
13 Unwieldy Farmers' Blues

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