“The loveless crouch in gangs and nations to mimic their lost vitality. Bullshit kills by degrees. Love is all around you. Evil is all around you, too.”
These are the liner notes on Love is a Powerful Charm of Trouble, the latest release by The Immortal Lee County Killers, a fearless Alabama twosome that snorts and stomps around the Southern tradition of the blues like a pig rooting in a pen. Love is a Powerful Charm of Trouble features 11 songs, most of which dig deep into the stories and myths of the blues, such as Robert Johnson’s famed crossroads and Willie Dixon’s “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind.” The liner notes function as a table of contents for what awaits: reflection, sorrow, sin and redemption.
The album is sparser in its arrangements than was its predecessor, The Essential Fucked-Up Blues. Here, listeners are asked to give a little more, delve a little deeper into the presentation and feeling behind the songs, rather than be accosted with guitar wails and loud, pounding drums. In a way, it’s grittier and rawer, leaving the impression of something unfinished, incomplete.
“Truth Through Sound” is more acoustic, foot-tapping front-porch blues while “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” is fast, muffled-stomp blues. Guitarist/singer Cheetah Weise employs a lot of distortion throughout most of the album, while JRR Token’s drums are almost a muted afterthought. On “Don’t Nothing Hurt Me Like My Back and Side,” Weise drops the distortion for a cleaner sound, coming up with a fierce, rolling song that pays homage to the Detroit sound circa 1971.
Though it’s a demanding album, Love is a Powerful Charm of Trouble is worth the effort. Having the right frame of mind is going to help. Abandon all decorum. Let the passion carry you on Weise’s strung-out delivery and black-painted fingernails. Run through the atmosphere, shake your ass. Throw up your hands on the promise that punk can infuse the blues with an utter depth and cathartic aggression. Let go of expectations and exist within any given three measures of song. Then, and only then, will the power of the Killers reveal itself to you.
But, if you’re a little uncomfortable going with the “abandoned” thing, there is, of course, always whiskey and cheap beer, which will accomplish much the same effect.