‘LA Shit’ is an album that gives a lot in exchange for a deeper listen.
GracieHorse is the performing name of Gracie Jackson, formerly of Boston duo Fat Creeps, and ‘LA Shit’ marks her first recording since 2015’s ‘Gracie’, her first since moving from Massachusetts to Los Angeles and her debut for label Wharf Cat Records. Working a day job as a travel nurse – which sounds a pretty challenging way to earn living – she suffered a neck injury which sidelined her. And then there was the small matter of a pandemic. Out of all of this, GracieHorse returned to creating music reaching back into her past for parts of songs and experience which, working in her home studio, she wove into the songs that make up ‘LA Shit’.
GracieHorse is part of a community of LA-based artists operating in many of those areas of music – country, psychedelic, rock, folk – that come under the Americana umbrella. That’s reflected in the songs themselves many of which sound familiar both stylistically and melodically. The opening track on ‘LA Shit’ is ‘Hollow Head’, the oldest song on the record. A warning on the perils of victimhood it jogs in with a bouncy beat while GracieHorse drawls the vocal over guitar chords and a floating pedal steel. Next up we get ‘By The Light of his White Stetson’ based on an episode in a remote roadhouse from her travel nurse days. The tune starts at a fair old lick and speeds and slows throughout like the otherworldly dance of the lyric.
‘What I’m Missing’ sees GracieHorse reflecting on homesickness experienced on her move from the North East to the West Coast; an episode not at all helped by the isolation imposed by the pandemic. Musically, there’s a wistfulness which emphasises themes of loss and loneliness. It’s a theme that crops up again on ‘North Wind’ made up of one eerie repeated multi tracked verse and underpinned by the twin banjos of GracieHorse and Madelyn Strutz and Elliot Kemper’s strings. ‘Back Up Slowly’ sees GracieHorse reunited with Corey Madden and Noah Kohli of The Color Green on whose record she guested last year. The tune is a bouncy twangy country tune with a rolling piano courtesy of Jeremy Pfau.
The mood turns darker on ‘Run Ricky Run’ which has a country gothic feel to it underpinned by Strutz’s banjo and Tim Ramsey’s pedal steel. Lyrically the song talks to trusting one’s instincts with people best avoided. ‘If You’re Gonna Walk That Straight Line Son, It’s Only Gonna Hurt’ opens with a rhythm and guitar riff that will have you checking the player hasn’t jumped to a Kurt Vile tune by mistake. A breathy vocal relates a cautionary tale of going through life in blinkers. GracieHorse reprises ‘Hollow Head’ as the record’s penultimate track; this time with a more traditional backing in which Strutz’s banjo is again prominent. Album closer ‘Words Of The New West’ is described as a “song about the frustrations in navigating a new music scene”. It opens with a twangy guitar and beat that immediately suggest Calexico. The opening verse refers to “maniacs with backing tracks in ballrooms” while the chorus demands “You wanna explain, for instance, how you tell the difference between a cowboy and one who tries”.
A record that sounds quite familiar at first, ‘LA Shit’ is an album that gives a lot in exchange for a deeper listen.