January 13, 2022

Blanche - If We Can't Trust The Doctors... (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Country
Label Number: MAMA-010

© 2004 Cass/V2 Records
Writhing and preening like a fistful of wild-eyed Southern preachers, Blanche sells sweet snake oil by the wagonload on their debut release If We Can't Trust the Doctors. Fronted by the enigmatic Dan Miller (the artist formerly known as Goober in the hillbilly-punk prototype Goober and the Peas) and his ethereal wife Tracee, the band weaves a hypnotic blend of old-timey medicine show theatrics and down-home acoustic pickin', all threaded through with a spooky string of murder ballads and women scorned. Along with assistance from Brendan Benson and His Name Is Alive's Warn DeFever, the album was handcrafted by the understated Dave Feeny, whose production reveals layers of banjo, pedal steel, autoharp, and subtly distorted guitars, all toothing together like rusting gears in a Model 'A' Ford rolled off the Detroit lines a century ago. While on the surface the songwriting seems straightforward and simple, the pages within peel back like crumbling photos in a black paper photo album lost in the drawers during the Eisenhower era. Tracee and Dan's give-and-take on the slight love song "Do You Trust Me?" serves as an early highlight, revealing the dark underbelly of their romantic cooing, while the pulsing "Hopeless Waltz" incorporates elements of timeless songwriting and an atmospheric dusting of Mazzy Star and Mojave 3's narcoleptic dreaminess. The album ends in a haunting tent revival of religious fervor as if two auctioneers were simultaneously struck with the holy ghost, culminating in an old-time radio show rendition of Van Halen's "Running With the Devil," sounding for all the world like something resurrected from a Pentecostal hymnal. While much of the energy from the album seems tied to the power of the old church, If We Can't Trust the Doctors is no gospel album, but rather it taps deep into Greil Marcus' "old, weird America" of dusty 78's on Vocalion and Okeh, and the dusty-toothed wayfaring strangers of the Depression era circuit. The amazing thing about the album is that for all of its folkways influences, it still feels very much a contemporary work; certain to be found on iPods and peer-to-peer lists worldwide. Shining deep underneath the dust of the last hundred years are little glints of Blanche's sunnier moments, and while the band certainly proves that every silver lining has a cloud, the album is perfectly spooky and uplifting, chilling and rewarding, haunting and beautiful.

tags: blanche, if we can't trust the doctors, 2004, flac,


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