Several years ago I voted for Jason Isbell’s Southeastern as #1 in our annual album poll. I kind of surprised myself at the time, because as awesome as the record was, the subject matter of many of the songs was dark. I found myself having to steel up a little before I hit play. I developed that same sense of addictive anxiety with the latest from Denver duo, Alright Alright. Crucible is the name of the album and it takes a musical look at mid life, and the pain and scars you endure to get there.
The theme starts with the first cut, Over the Edge. Told through the back stories of the song’s two characters, it’s a parable about finally saying enough is enough and taking control of your own life. Female half of the duo, China Kent, showcases her piano on Don’t Worry, a pop-tinted piece about carrying on. She arranges a complex layer of strings to set the mood for Missouri Calling and the sad reality of homelessness.
Guitarist Seth takes a vocal turn on Trans Am. It’s one of those so-funny-if-it-wasn’t-true stories of how the object of youthful desire can become the proxy for throwing off the yoke of adulthood. Seth also takes the helm on Some Dreams, a semi-autobiographical look at dealing with what life throws you. The harsh reality sets in when he sings that “some dreams must die” in every chorus. Next up is Mercy. Set to a chaotic instrumental track, China lays bare the emotion of all those who have lost a child to senseless violence. It’s hard to get through without a lump forming in your throat.
Alright, Alright and producer Ben Wysocki gave a very orchestral feel to what’s more generally a folk album. There are also a number of pop song elements and friendly hooks that catch you on the way by. But unlike a trendy pop record, if you listen to it more closely, Crucible is going to stay with you for a long, long time.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.