By Conor Hooley
In Dyin’ Day, you have an album that not only embraces its Southern Rock clichés, but does so with such commitment and enthusiasm that it actually makes them work. More importantly, Musketeer Gripweed’s talent for extracting the best parts of the genre and keeping everything interesting is certainly unique.
Dyin’ Day is a concept album set in Jim Crow-era Mississippi and centered around a fictional patch of land named “Parchment Farm;” a sort of prison/plantation hybrid. It’s not a nice place, and our story’s narrator is thrown inside for a murder that he feels was just. What happens after is a vaguely-connected series of meditations and anecdotes and, well, suffice it to say that the band really fleshes out the environment.
The music is usually bursting at the seams with novel ideas and vibrant instrumentation. Impressively, it does so while still relating to, if not further developing, the album’s concept: The intro track “Black Swans Siren Song” sets the stage using a slave chant vocal and a lone blues riff, while “River Callin’” employs a gospel-tinged chorus and a harmonica solo to give the backwater exile narrative its proper O Brother Where Art Thou? overtones.
The final word must go to frontman Jason Downing, whose vocal performance is nothing short of incredible. The nasally twang of his voice fits in perfectly, and his lyrics masterfully create the harsh, dreary reality of everyday life on Parchment Farm.
This really might be the album of the year.