Rachel Brooke 'A Killer's Dream' - Mal

The sobriquet "Queen of the country underground" may on first hearing be at odds with the blues based sound of this album but then country and blues were all initially tributaries of the same deep river of music rising in the south and only really separated for promotional reasons further down the line.  Brooke's songs and voice are perfectly honed to deliver her tales of woe and wistfulness. She is welcoming to her companion in Late Night Lover, a song that creates a mood of after hours entanglements with trumpet and saw adding to the sonic textures. Throughout the album producers Andy Van Guilder and Brookes use instruments in a telling way to underscore the message of the songs. 

One of the two covers included here, the  Fats Domino co-wrote Every Night About This Time, is a strident twelve bar. Life Sentence Blues is just voice and guitar both deliver the telling tale (and title) with conviction. Her duet partner (they've previously released a duet album A Bitter Harvest) Lonesome Wyatt joins here again on a delightful verse swapping song that is again stripped right back to the power of the voices and a sparse backing. Other songs take the blues feeling to fuller levels with a full band that often brings Dave Tatrow's trumpet echoing through the ages from a much earlier time when this music played in turn of the century joints across the country. The metaphor of the Big Black Bird inhabits the song of that title with a sense of foreboding. A subtle tale of obsession and unwanted observation. The title track has a rockabilly backbeat and some backing vocals over a robust backing that throws in some Xylophone for Miss Brookes herself to add an off-kilter touch that works well in the tale that tells us "he's a hit man, she's a killer's dream".

A Killer's Dream is a ideal way to see why Rachel Brooke has been picked as a rising star. She has a compelling voice both as a singer and as a writer and on this album stretches some the expectations she may have had. Recording live with the band Viva Le Vox gives a spontaneity and vibrance to her take on an age old form that in the right hands never looses it's attraction or relevance. There is much to recommend Rachel Brooke and much to admire on her latest album. Time will tell if she can rise up to become an overground Country Queen. Along with such individual artists as Lindi Ortega and Zoe Muth - one can only hope so.