Here we find the sweetest of voices, but there’s clearly bad news and ‘Bad Luck’ up ahead in these songs from Alabama native Sylvia Rose Novak. She delivers an uncomplicated, simple sound; vocally reminiscent of Rosanne Cash (though it would be better if that voice was placed just a little higher in the mix). There’s big crunchy guitars, a little slide, add in a no-fuss drummer; a lot to like here.
Opener ‘Dallas’ probably isn’t as strong as the rest of the record. It’s slow and brooding, but doesn’t quite take off. Next up is ‘Sister’, which kicks the experience into full flower; the verses are a thing of true country beauty. ‘South of Boulder’ is a souped-up snare shuffle American journey song – we’re into fifth or sixth gear now and the guitar breaks are fast and furious. ‘Dry’ has a plodding rhythm and scorching guitar figures reminiscent of Neil Young with his trusty horse. It’s a gear step down but the intensity is instead heightened by the move. ‘Arkansas’ is funereally slow, paired down and full of Deep South woe. The penultimate cut, ‘Waiting on October’, has a distinct First Aid Kit ‘Emmylou’ shuffle feel. It’s a real sad beauty of a track, where pedal steel intertwines with pulsing tremolo guitar and the melancholy oozes out. Closer, the titular ‘Bad Luck’ is another furnace hot slab of Crazy Horse fun, somewhere around Ragged Glory vintage.
Kudos to Novak to finish her debut record with the biggest, boldest song she has. The guitar break is straight out of the Shakey playbook. In fact both of these concluding songs are by a good distance the best Novak offers.