Iron City Preachers
There’s a moment in the movie Ray when somebody asks Ray Charles, portrayed by Jamie Foxx, why he loves country music. “I love the stories,” he replies. It’s a clichéd sentiment in a movie full of them, but it sticks with me as a pocket-sized explanation for the universal appeal of the genre. Foxx’s faux-Ray voice was in my head while I listened to the debut album from the “Yankee Southern rock” band Iron City Preachers. Because while the Portland quintet’s muscular melodic jangle would bring comfort to any Uncle Tupelo or Drive-By Truckers fan, the lyrics lean heavily on the clichéd generalities of classic rock. “These Days” has a marriage proposal in it, but could be about pretty much any relationship. “I’m Coming Home” gives us one quality image of empty moonshine bottles, but remains little more than a promise to do what the song title says. [Side note: Can we please call a moratorium on referring to love interests as “little girls”? This has never been OK.] So yeah, don’t come for the stories. But do check out singer Curtis Caswell, whose rich, Darius Rucker-ish tenor is a pleasure. Enjoy the raggedly catchy ’90s alt-country guitars. And don’t miss the tucked-away instrumental, “67,” one of the best local tracks of the year so far. Its chord progression is like a fish after the ice melts, rising slowly until it feels the warmth of the sun.
— Joe Sweeney