Sarah Shook & The Disarmers “Years” (Bloodshot Records, 2018)

Following on from their great success and widely-acclaimed debut ‘Sidelong’ released in 2015 which led to the band being signed to Chicago-based Bloodshot Records, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers have returned with their own sophomore effort ‘Years’. The record wastes no time in getting started with opening track ‘Good As Gold’ which is an upbeat number driven by acoustic guitar, rumbling drums and front-woman Sarah Shook’s unique, southern voice and with a true ear worm of a chorus, the right song was chosen to open up the record and set the tone for what is to follow. The song has a traditional country feel which is the overarching style throughout ‘Years’ however, the record occasionally leans in a more folk-punk direction at times, in particular on the opener and follow-up tracks ‘New Ways to Fail’ and ‘Over You’ and although those songs share a similarity in terms of style, there is enough difference between them to keep the record interesting.

‘The Bottle Never Lets Me Down’ slows proceedings down a bit and as the title might suggest, is a slower, blues-driven number focusing on the good old fashioned coupling heartbreak and drinking. As with many of the songs on the record, the lyrical content draws from traditional country themes such as the aforementioned and seemingly autobiographical tales of woe which isn’t to suggest the record is downbeat by any means and in general, it is quite the opposite which creates an interesting juxtaposition on tracks like ‘Damned If I Do, Damned If I Do’ which is an upbeat, groovy, rockabilly track about a yearning for someone that is not longer around – another classic lyrical theme explored by the band on this album.

The album gradually builds throughout until it reaches ‘Heartache In Hell’, the penultimate track and a brilliant pedal-steel/acoustic ballad and showcases a brilliant vocal performance from Shook and a great musical performance from the band, in particular the lead guitar playing which is a stand out throughout ‘Years’ due to it being used only to accentuate parts of the songs to give them an extra depth with such precision that it never feels like it is being used because it is available and only when it will contribute to the vision of each song.

Overall, the album as a whole is a solid follow-up record to a brilliant debut and a great addition to the collection of any fan of modern-country music and although at times, the record feels repetitive, there is a clear style and a genuine identity throughout and more than enough here to keep you coming back for repeat listens.

6/10

Summary

Sarah Shook and her band The Disarmers return with a new collection of country-punk tales of drinking and heartbreak

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