Ian Noe “River Fools & Mountain Saints”

Thirty Tigers, 2022

A fantastic if bleak portrayal of life and times in rural Appalachia.

This is the follow up record to Noe’s debut ‘Between The Country’ and was recorded over a two year period on reel-to-reel tapes and tells many stories in the great songs here, about life in Lee County Kentucky.  It’s an album full of fantastic character studies about folk who live an admittedly down at heel lifestyle in rural Appalachia.  ‘PineGrove (Madhouse)’ opens proceedings and was also  the pre album release single. It’s a swinging stomper with hints of the great Creedence Clearwayer Revival, who are name checked in a different song.  A lot of the songs on this album are shaped by the geography and unforgiving landscape of the area. Noe painting pictures with his words and his great worn lived it voice.  ‘Lonesome As It Gets’ does what it says on the tin. A heartfelt tale of loss and regret ending with how low can you go. ‘And I got drunk on Christmas night and had an epiphany. Let’s end the day in a holy way and set fire to the Christmas tree’ Pretty bleak stuff.

Tom Barrett’ is another great song about a gulf war vet who is struggling to come to terms with life back on Civvy Street.  Different take on a ‘Billy Austin’ type tale. Perhaps with a happier ending for the protagonist. It’s not all doom and gloom though. ‘Burning Down The Prairie‘ is a chugging boogie in homage to the indigenous people of Appalachia.  Ramping things up to 11 in a guitar maelstrom climax as cymbals crash and the fires lay waste to the Prairie.

The most epic tune on this album is ‘Appalachia Haze’  A superb eulogy about the general demise of the area, but the still proud folk adjusting to life post pandemic. Great lines evoke strong images of lives going nowhere fast. ‘There’s coffee cans and an old box fan, floating in the creek’  The tales of Bobbie, John and Sarah ‘she goes when the whiskey flows, says she goes to hard’  a harrowing bleeding slide guitar haunts the song, only adding to its depths of despair. ‘There’s plastic pets and a blue swing set, rusted in the yard’ Wow.

Noe is a great talent. This record was produced by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes/ Margo Price) with musicians backing him from The Raconteurs and Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit.  He is certainly worthy of such talented back up , although many of  the songs might be dark the future looks bright for Ian Noe.


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