Nowadays when kids hear about a hot new “blues” record they immediately think of a new male/female two-piece Stripes-clone featuring effeminately attractive musicians at odds with the other’s stage personality (a la the Kills). But the blues a la Pearlene is more along the Southern-fried down-home traditional variety.
Featuring members of the Soledad Brothers and lesser known Greenhornes, this release on Dim Mak records is the second album put out by this Kentucky/Cincinnati four piece. Their self-titled debut came out earlier this year on Sympathy for the Record Industry, a label previously responsible for early releases by New Bomb Turks, Rocket from the Crypt and, oh-my-aching-irony, the White Stripes. Maybe the comparison isn’t so far-fetched after all?
Regardless of your opinion of the band with the primary-colored outfits, Pearlene isn’t out to spread the gospel of the blues riff but rather to preach the word through a raw display of countrified-electricity that’s sure to inspire a new generation into checking out dipping tobacco and the Bible.
With a 12-track album inspired primarily by whiskey and heartache, authenticity shines through on a number of tracks. “Murder Blues and Prayer” is the soundtrack to the contemplation of a rural killing directed by a simple, driving blues beat with a distant vocal track and harmonica that keeps your spine hairs jangling.
The members of Pearlene seem to enjoy this sort of musical instrument merry-go-round. The line-up repeatedly rotates, the main engine powering each track being the raucously cohesive bass and drums. The rhythm guitar acts as glue, holding the vocals and other treble noise together enough to keep black smoke fuming out of the speakers. The lyrics roll out of the station with such old-time blues themes as loneliness, heartbreak, and even family ties, as lead vocalist (and Soledad Brothers producer) Rueben Glaser wails out, “Blood is the distance between you and me.”
Whether you’re trying to be a part of their blood brotherhood or not, it’d be hard for anyone that’s ever drank whiskey or had their heart broken (or both) to not find at least one track on this album to get down with. The range of the album is from one shot of Jack Daniels sadness all the way to the type of low where there’s an empty fifth and you’re on your knees begging for salvation. And Pearlene offers enough of the “You gonna be sorry/ You done me wrong” to lift you back onto your feet again the next morning.
The only trouble is, of course, that these God-fearing rural types always over-saturate the subtle points. A jaded urban nihilist may write this group off as a gang of Jesus-freaks with a passion for pentatonic rhythms played with distortion. If you’re that type of kid however, you probably shouldn’t have listened to your friends from the Kills show and instead looked closer at the album before you bought it. The cover art, a picture of an old house, and the album title alone should have warned you, just as Glaser does in track No. 8, “I thought you knew what you were getting into.”