Trophy Husbands – Dark and Bloody Ground

Trophy Husbands
Dark and Bloody Ground

Before moving from Washington, DC to Denver, Colo., I never would listen to country music, either by choice or by accident. DC is most definitely not known for its country offerings. But I’m an open-minded person, and I don’t discredit any genre of music when particular artists might win me over. So in Denver, which has more than its share of artists in the country, bluegrass, and similar genres, I was willing to give it a shot.
There’s definitely something to be said for the talent of artists in these genres. You rarely hear better guitar players, and the mixture of instruments that include fiddles, banjos, and more is always inspiring. There are clearly some good country-genre artists, and we’re not talking alt-country here. Does Trophy Husbands merit mention in that group? With some songs, yes.
When listening to this band, which contains Kevin Daly of the band Grave Danger and Dave Insley of Nitpickers, I’m reminded of the traditional bluegrass style of playing. In that method, the band gathers around a single microphone, playing their instruments and then moving closer to the mic for their respective vocal parts or instrument solos. These songs have something of that quality here, with the music falling more into the background behind the vocals.
These songs are not light-hearted, traditional country fare for the most part. Instead, they touch on robberies, smugglers, vigilantes and bums in dark and morose tales. Even the music caries an ominous tone on these tracks. The album starts off a little weak, with the bare “Everybody Knows,” which has some production issues with the vocals, but it picks up from there as it progressively gets darker. The title track has a definite Johnny Cash style morose country feel, the kind of tale of war and death that gives country a good name. And on “Willie,” a folk-style track with more electric guitar, the band almost does a Cash impersonation. “Until they murder me and lay me in the ground, there will be hell to pay whenever I’m around,” they sing on the folky “Until Then.” And the tale in “Skellys 1975,” along with the more bluesy feel, makes this one of my favorite tracks.
Some of the songs here, however, remind me why country is not my genre of choice. “Cadillac” picks up the pace for a good ol’ stompin, honkey-tonk time, and “Big Wheel,” a song all about driving your truck through town and charming the ladies, just seems silly, although it has a throw-back, traditional feel. And “Just Call Me Lonesome” is just too twangy. Now this one’s a traditional country tune, almost to a stereotypical end. But just to prove I’m only a sucker for the morose songs here, “She Don’t Love You,” a song of unrequited love that is bouncy and undoubtedly bluegrass through and through, is one of the album’s strong points.
Overall, I can’t fault the Trophy Husbands. Songs of blood and gore and death and depression are always good, as Johnny Cash has endlessly proved. The Husbands pick up where some of Cash’s work left off on most of these tracks, and I’m enthralled with their dark and moody undertones. It’s only the lighter, more traditionally bluegrass/country songs that leave me wanting. I’m sure they’re quite good, but they’re just not my thing.