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Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir - Ten Thousand

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 9 / 8 / 2008

Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir - Ten Thousand
Label: Ballin the Jack
Format: CD


Flawed, but fascinating second album from Mississippi blues and Appalachian hill country-influenced Canadians, Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir

Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir are not, their press release points out, a choir. Neither are they from the mountains – in fact, they're from Canada, a country whose best-known contribution to country music goes by the name of Shania Twain. Not an auspicious start, then. The band play pre-war (the second world war, that is) music in the mode of Mississippi blues and Appalachian hill country, which is more of a mix than it sounds. The opening tracks, 'Go Back Home' and 'The Boig', are good examples of what the band describe as 'death blues' – the mortality-obsessed music common to certain times and certain places in recent American history. 'Dumb it Down' and 'Taking it Out' follow in the same vein, but 'You Got it Wrong' is more of a bluegrass number, albeit a far more angry, throaty song than that sobriquet usually denotes. The album gets more interesting towards the end, particularly on 'La Valse De Balfa', a Cajun cover, and 'Empire State Express', a Son House cover. Both are extremely good versions, and they bookend another pair of death blues tracks, the slow and considered 'Rainstorms in My Knees' and the bouncy 'Nehemiah's Misfortune'. Both, particularly the latter, are among the stand-out tracks. The band are very talented – in amongst the usual finger-picked guitars, knocked-together drums and banjos are past-their-best trombones, electric guitars and more. The music is authentic, too, whatever that means in this context. It certainly wouldn't be recognised by pre-war musicians, but just like the modern blues bands who play an updated, angry version of the blues rather than slavishly adhering to how the music used to sound, Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir's music is fascinating. Sadly, they're lacking in lyrics – most of the album is nondescript when it comes to the words, and the music, while interesting, just isn't captivating enough, by and large, to stick in the mind. It's telling that the two best songs on the album are covers, and while there are some other good tracks here, it's largely going to be one for the cajun-bluegrass-country-blues completists.

Track Listing:-
1 Go Back Home
2 The Boig
3 Dumb It Down
4 Taking It Out
5 You Got It Wrong
6 Life Is Long
7 Stop That Thing
8 Never Be Dead
9 La Valse De Balfa
10 Rainstorms in My Knees
11 Nehemiah's Misfortune
12 Empire State Express
13 Dark Holler
14 10,000 Years

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live reviews

12 Bar, London, 30/9/2007
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir - 12 Bar, London, 30/9/2007
The Agnostic Gospel Mountain Choir are obviously capable of serious force with their fierce gospe-esquel blues, but at the 12 Bar in London Dan Cressey finds them on strangely subdued form

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Fighting And Onions (2006)
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