We all know J. from Resurrectionsongs, a big part of our Community here on WordPress. On top of maintaining that super-cool blog, and being a newly-minted daddy (congrats to you all, and welcome to the world, wee yin!!), J. makes records. They’re wonderful. I’ve reviewed a couple of his others, Ten Fires and I’m Not Lost, in these pages. I’m already big a fan. 🙂
So when word came down that Pray For Rain was wrapping up and would soon be available, I immediately and excitedly placed my order. I got my copy in December. We’re going live February 1st because the idea (thanks, Geoff!) was to get a bunch of us together and drop reviews all on the same day. And here we are!
So. Can I tell you a secret? I’ve written this review (at minimum) three times. Some things have carried over from each draft to now, but I have waited a long time to post this, and so I spent a lot of time chipping away at it. Not only did I want to get it right, to do right by J. and the band, but I also kept hearing new things with each successive spin (and there have been many, by now). But, as I told my lovely wife, eventually I was going to have to set it free and put it out there. I’ve revised and reread the damn thing so much I hope now that I didn’t forget anything or screw it up. 🙂
The Perpetrators Of All This Glory:
Stuart Begley – lead guitar
Tommy Clark – drums
Frankie Coia – bass guitar
Jim Dead (J.) – vocals and guitar
Ah, Pray For Rain. To say I loved it, right off the top, still feels like Understatement Of The Year to me. But it had to be said. Let’s get to it:
Wooden Kimono stomps along with a happy groove, very reminiscent of earlier tracks but updated and with more of a rock edge to it all. It has lift, it has grit, it has strength. It’s a brilliant album opener, priming me for more.
May The Road Rise is another rocker, and already I can tell we’re entering new territory with this record. That bluesy guitar line draws the ear and won’t let go, that menacing second line is rock solid, paired with the buoyant drums, and J.’s go for broke vocals over the top… total killer. I hear Soundgarden in this (and that’s a GREAT thing).
Pray For Rain keeps that beautiful rock chug going. The drums are all over this title track, holy hell, and as a former drummer myself boy do I love that (well done, Tommy Clark)! The lyrics tell a helluva tale and this is a keeper for sure.
Holding The Line is super-slinky bluesy glorious, part Southern raunch and part Meat Puppets. I friggin’ love this track. Love.
Lovesick Blues pounds and rolls us into an STP/AIC-yet still very much their own sound bliss-out. And that ending. Holy shit. YES!
Trains is super-short and fun, with an almost native American vibe to it, somehow. Cool intermission!
Crows On The Wire brings the country blues stomp with a busy guitar line and a swingin’ dance party feel to it. Was this made in Scotland or Tennessee? It matters not. Friggin’ gorgeous.
Home takes us back to earlier efforts, shedding the rock out approach to bring us a mighty fine story and a sweet, gentle build that would totally be at home on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. As the song winds on, J. starts to get a bit unhinged, and it is glorious and serves the song perfectly.
You Coulda Said is another slicing electric guitar blues that threatens at every turn and barely restrains itself. Those vocals, J.! Hot damn! But this is a full band track, and they’re nailing it. What a bruiser. What sheer delight!
I’m Not Lost (also the title of his 2013 EP) is one king hell of an album closer. They go for bluesy motherfucking broke, soaring and crashing, snarling and wailing, caressing and pleasing… Holy shit. HOLY SHIT! I am so in love with this track.
I dropped (probably a few too many) comparisons to other bands, here. They’re meant simply as descriptors, not at all that Jim Dead & The Doubters are stealing from or trying to be any of those other acts. These guys are strong on their own, thank you very much, and hereby established as a class act and they occupy a deserved place of honour all their own. It isn’t fair to go back and compare this album to previous work, but I will say that this is a definite growth, a step in a new direction while still holding tight to the original values. This is friggin’ outstanding work.
As with the other CDs, the sound is great, the songwriting is stellar (seriously), the playing is out of this world (whoa!), and I really cannot enthuse enough about what this band of (surely) mighty fine fellows are doing. As I listened, I imagined what this would sound like in a smoky, dark, sweaty basement club and knew right away that this stuff would send them over the top and into stardom. If I was in charge of a major record label, I would already have these guys’ signature on a dotted line and I’d be giving them free reign to conquer the music world.
I cannot recommend this enough. I do not have a number rating system on this blog, but if I did, Pray For Rain is at least a 12/10.