From the oddly proportioned cowboy on the cover, to the Cormac McCarthy novel-inspired name, one can easily surmise from surface alone that Blood Meridian is something of a country band. Yet Blood Meridian doesn’t call the American heartland its home. Coming straight out of Vancouver, the band is fronted by Black Halos, Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops member Matthew Camirand, and based on that pedigree right there, one might wonder what business this Canuck buck has playing such rootsy Americana, being that the Great White North is his homeland. Being that I’m from California and not, say, Tennessee, I’m not arrogant enough to make that argument. But being that Camirand’s so strongly steeped in psychedelic and garage rock, it does come as a pleasant surprise to hear such a genuine, heartfelt bit of country-infused rock.
Just to clarify, there is something somewhat non-traditional about Blood Meridian’s sound. And that mainly applies to Camirand’s voice. His affected, slacker drawl comes off as something like a cross between John McCrea, Kurt Cobain and Conor Oberst. That may be a hard combination to imagine, but it makes sense when you hear it. At times he’s emotive and warbly like the two latter frontmen, but often sing-speaky like the former. In cases like opener “Your Boyfriend’s Blues,” his pleading, desperate lyrics come off as sincere, and in the Johnny Paycheck-like “Work Hard For What?” Camirand’s cry of “take this job and shove it up your ass” couldn’t sound more fitting. Unfortunately, however, on slower tracks like “Let It Come Down,” his voice’s limitations become glaringly obvious, which can be a shame on such an instrumentally well-crafted song.
Tracks like the lovely, banjo pluckin’ “Most Days” and the haunting “In the Forest Under the Moon” fare better for their display of gentle falsetto vocals. And the rocking anthem “Soldiers of Christ” recalls Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York performance, both angsty and subdued, maintaining an edge without betraying the country roots deep within. “Good Lover” nails the Southern Gothic sound perfectly, a touch of reverb on Camirand’s voice giving it a ghostly echo while drums rumble and Hammond organ weeps in the background. With its spooky melody, you can almost see the candle flickering inside the sepia-colored, cobwebbed room. Yet the whistle-happy “Try for You” finds the band attempting more of an acoustic pop sound a la The Shins.
Within the concept of “Americana” there are many avenues on which Blood Meridian travels. Being that Kick Up the Dust seems not to adhere to just one of them faithfully, it becomes an exciting and diverse listen. It’s not a perfect album, and it wouldn’t hurt to polish up some of the rough spots, but on those romantically lonesome, dusty nights when the sun sets late and there’s a tear in your beer, it makes for a fine complement.
Oakley Hall – Gypsum Strings
Nirvana – Unplugged in New York
Songs:Ohia – Magnolia Electric Co.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.