Big Harp – Chain Letters [album review]

by Woody on January 22, 2013


Seems like I have been listening to alot of husband/wife duos lately . Shovels & Rope was one of our favorites of ’12. Now two great albums of early ’13 are husband/wife duos – Whitehorse and now, Big Harp. Big Harp is Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney. While their debut, White Hat, leaned towards folky alt-country; their sound has been changing since day one. You have to figure your music is going to be rather dynamic when as a couple – they met, married, started a band, moved and last but not least – had two kids (in no discernible order).

Big Harp started off in Omaha, went to LA, back to Omaha and is now back in LA. And the LA has rubbed off on them in a good way. The music is decidedly more electric with more significantly more punch and fuzz than their debut. The first time you listen to Chain Letters, it is almost unnerving how different it is from White Hat. While Chris’ rich deep voice is still around, it definitely takes a few listens to enjoy Chain Letters on its own and stop comparing it to White Hat.

While the sound may have more punch to it, some of the lyrics still seem rooted in twang. The opening track, You Can’t Save ‘Em All sounds like mix of an old school country tune and a Cormac McCarthy book. Its dark, brooding and has this grinding lick to it. But weirdly enough it bounces along with lovely harmonies from Stefanie – has a kicking guitar solo in it as well.

Good News sounds like Dax Riggs taking a stab at cowpunk. Chris sounds a little demonic and shows up a howl that would make Dax proud. And the album closes with the brilliant 5 minute plus, Call Out The Calvary, Strike Up The Band. It sounds like something you would hear in the closing credits of a Coen Bros movie; if that movie was a spaghetti western. If that was their inspiration, I am fucking genius. Chances are, I am still the same dumbass you’ve been reading for years.

I’ve been spinning Chain Letters for the last couple of weeks and can’t recommend it enough. It will take a few spins, especially if you were down White Hat, but the payoff is worth every minute. Its a great listen.

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