little town nestled between the
Berkshire mountains and the mighty Connecticut river that most folks
would prefer did not exist. Every
spring the flood waters from the
melting snow wash the sins from
these hills into the muddy water and
carry them out to sea. But some sins
are just too filthy to wash away. They
gather in brakish pools and fester.
They fertilize the land and evil
grows. Grows into places like Killville.
Angry Johnny and the Killbillies
live here. They sing songs about sin
and hate and the occasional
redemption. Exposing the dark underbelly of americana with a
Faulkneresque flare, they paint a
Norman Rockwellion nightmare laced with just enough black humor to keep you smiling, and a backwoods beat
that'll keep your toes tapping all the
way to the promised land if you're
lucky, and all the way down to Hell
if you're not.
The new album loosely tells the tale of one unlucky son of a bitch called Monroe. His fall from grace, his attempts at redemption, and his eventual inevitable demise. His trip on down to Hell ain't pretty, but man it sure sounds sweet. So enjoy the music, enjoy the ride, and be glad that it
happened to Monroe and not
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Daily Hampshire Gazette
Halloween, not Thanksgiving, is the holiday when we should be celebrating Angry Johnny. His tales of murder and love gone very wrong will scare you out of your wits, because the stories are so real. Angry Johnny does not play at despair and evil, he follows it all the way down with an unflinching eye.
The black humor in songs like "Lucky Day" ("It was not his lucky day") will have you chuckling until the end when the protagonist dies a grisly death outside the gas station he was trying to rob. "He came to rest in a bloody mess, up against the Coke machine."
On his unrelentingly excellent and dark new album, banjos pluck, guitars strum and quiver while the anti-heroes of these songs get in deep trouble. Angry Johnny sounds like he could be Fred Eaglesmith's dangerous brother. He writes with Eagelsmith's feel for details of a down-and-out life.
"Jerry Lynn" is a bruised, pulp novel of a song about another desperate soul who leaves his girl crying at the bar as he goes off toe move some car full of cocaine and stolen guns on the Chesterfield highway.
Characters with names like Shelburne Montgomery reference places in western Massachusetts and on his Web site "("getangry.com") Angry Johnny describes his band as "Connecticut river Valley boys from right around Killville, MA."
The Church of the Angry Mind
By Shawn Stone
Metroland ONLINE "The Alternative Newsweekly Of New York's Capital Region"
Angry Johnny and the Killbillies, City Limits, Michael Eck with Jackinany, Furnature Music
Valentine's, April 5
It was another evening of Brand New Country at Ye Old Valentine's. You could tell right away, because the "Brand New Country" banner-bearing the silhouette of a fellow who looks an awful lot like Abe Lincoln but is probably some musical icon I should recognize and don't-was hanging up at the back of the downstairs stage.
This informal series, organized by Jeff Burger, emcee of WRPI-FM's Sunday Morning Coming Down, brings together musicians whose work falls somewhere on the country & western continuum. Last time around, the lineup included the sweet-sounding alt-country of Coal Palace Kings and the gospel-influenced songcraft of Hayseed. This night, with Angry Johnny and the Killbillies on the bill, the mood was noticeably darker.
Angry Johnny and the aforementioned Killbillies are from Easthampton, Mass., a town they lovingly call "Killville." Killville, we are made to understand, is a world away from what the tourist bureau likes to call the "cultural Berkshires," or the comfortable college confines of nearby Amherst or Northampton-all the songs are about Killville's residents and their lovin' and sinnin' and dyin'.
It's a place where the lonely, treacherously curvy state highway through town claims the lost and doomed ("202," which bore a passing resemblance to Love's "Between Clark and Hillsdale"); where a simple grocery-store holdup ends in an orgy of blood and betrayal ("Frank"); where if a girl is well-known enough to be enshrined in song, she's too evil to live ("Jezebel").
Angry Johnny's voice was angry indeed: rough-hewn and thick with the weight of sin. Like a black-hatted preacher whose intimate knowledge of sin was earned through personal experience, Johnny's between-song patter was loaded with gloomy references to the almighty.
The band sounded angry. Whether ripping through apocalyptic tales of death or zipping through lighter, punkabilly numbers ("Disposable Boy," "Funny Thing About Heroes"), the Killbillies didn't hold back. Their arrangements were novel, too: Who ever heard of playing electric-guitar leads on a mandolin, and making it not only credible but exciting?
Check out the artist's website:
1. When I Think Of You
2. Jerry Lynn
3. Only Thing I want To Do
4. Let's Get It Over With
5. Walpole Prison Blues
7. One Bullet Blues
8. Lucky Day
9. I Chose The Gun
10. Baker's Farm
11. Only Thing He Said
12. I Think I See The Light
13. Body Doing Time
14. Waltzing On Air
15. Trains Don't Run
16. Sold Me Down The River