The Roseline “Good Grief” (Independent, 2020)

‘Good Grief’ is the sixth album by The Roseline; comprising of singer/ songwriter Colin Halliburton and accompanying musicians.  They describe themselves as “indie-Americana – for want of a better word”, but in truth it’s the most accurate description of the band. Songs such as ‘Ghost Writer’, ‘Better to the Bone’ and ‘Quartz to Digital’ have the requisite power chords, chiming guitars, driving beats and anthemic lyrics and ‘Inside Out’ is made for the moshpit. However, this material seems to sit uneasily alongside songs from the country music template like ‘I Guess That’s Just How It Goes’ and ‘Pheasant Feather’.

‘Counting Sheep’ follows on from a trip to Bergen-Belsen and is about the rise of white right-wing American nationalists. Songs on this topic can sometimes engender a feeling of queasiness; in general, it’s best to avoid.  It requires an extraordinary songwriter to address any aspect of the Shoah in a three-minute song with the appropriate sensitivity.

The most frustrating element of the album is the muddy vocal sound. No- one expects perfect diction in driving rock, but Halliburton’s voice is often lost in the arrangements leaving the lyrics opaque. In ‘Bilirubin’ you can hear the refrain is something about “sweet Saint Nicholas” and assume it’s a biochemical themed Christmas song. Fortunately, it’s not. In ‘Pheasant Feather’ it’s possible to glean that things aren’t going well for the central character but it’s not possible to figure exactly what. It’s a shame because there are some thoughtful lyrics and Heidi Gluck’s backing singing complements and is well used.

And then the album finishes with a simple, beautiful, honest and direct song. ‘Song for Ehren’ has a lazy, joyful bounce and is written for the band’s former keyboard player who recently passed away. It’s not a eulogy but a portrait of a confident charmer and communicates his sense of life. The fade out comes too soon here. The album has an uneven tone but this piece gives it a poignant and sweet finish.

An uneven tone but finishing with sweet uplift
5/10

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