WARNING: Some of the songs on this album may be a little graphic for some
Right now and over the next few weeks will be a relatively slow time for album releases. You’ll notice I don’t review all that many singles here because I believe that the time that I have to write for this blog should be devoted mostly to albums. As I have become more of an independent music fan, singles and individual songs have become less important to me. So during this slow time I decided to go out searching for new albums that I could cover and I found one that interested me so I gave it a listen. The album is called Warning Signs and it is bluegrass band Breaking Grass’ 4th album. Breaking Grass is not what you would call a traditional bluegrass band however, they do not stretch those boundaries as far as The Infamous Stringdusters do.
One of the things that you will notice before even listening to the album is how cool the album art is for this album. I’ll be honest, I usually could not care less about album art because for the most part it’s usually nothing that great. But, with this album it really stands out and paints a great picture for what a large theme of the album will be and that is death/murder. The first song where we are introduced to this theme is “Stay” which is also the least traditional sounding song on the album. The man misses a former lover and believes that she has returned home. There are signs however that this woman is dead and that this is all just in his head. His friend thinks he’s crazy and should get help and he talks about the woman as though she is dead even though nothing is said outright. It is an extremely painful and emotional acoustic song with light fiddle play.
The other two songs where the themes of death/murder are prevalent are “Nobody Knows” and “The One She Adored.” “Nobody Knows” describes two lovers having an affair. They are secretly parked on a dark night by the train tracks. The two of them are shot dead by what we can assume was the man’s wife. The killer/storyteller buries their bodies and nobody except the killer knows what happened to them. Now let me talk about “The One She Adored.” When I heard this song my mouth was wide open on multiple occasions as I could not believe what I was hearing. This song is messed up. A crazy man is in love with a woman who is in love with another man. The crazy guy takes the other man out hunting and murders him. That’s not even the messed up part of this song if you can believe it. He then watches as a wildcat starts to eat the dead body and when the cat is done he buries the remains.
On a lighter note we get the song “Short Shorts.” When I saw the name of the song and heard the first verse I was screaming in my head that on such a terrific album they would cut the bluegrass version of a bro country song but, that’s not what this song is at all. There is a beautiful woman named Milly who is married to a man named Jim that doesn’t treat her right. On many a night he will come home stumbling drunk. She wears the shorts as a message to Jim that if he doesn’t get his act together she is going to leave him. There are plenty of suitors for this woman who is described as a smart, independent and gorgeous woman. The albums title track and the cover art of the album fit together quite nicely. In “Warning Signs” we get another non traditional track. On a lot of songs on this album including the title track you get a bit of a spooky or anxious feeling listening to the music. All his life the man in this song has been afraid of falling in love. When there were warning signs that he may be falling in love he would run however, this time he was caught by surprise. He feels an intense love for this woman and it scares him.
The album delivers on the breakup songs with “Taking and Giving” and “House of Cards” which take two different approaches. In “Taking and Giving” the narrator admits that he is the reason for the failed relationship. All he does is take from the relationship and all she does is give. He is the reason that she is not living her dreams and she has finally had enough. In “House of Cards” the narrative is flipped with the woman being to blame. The house of cards symbolizes the failed relationship that came crashing down. Another great track on the album is the opening track “Cold Rain.” Ever since his woman left him he can’t sleep. Every night he feels cold rain on his pillow which symbolizes his tears. He has considered moving away but, he fears the cold rain will follow him anywhere he goes.
The album comes to a close with the religious song “Faith Moved A Mountain.” It is a really cute song about a little girl named Faith and a mountain of a man who is ironically named Tiny. Tiny has lived alone on the mountain as long as anyone can remember. Nobody talks to him and everyone is afraid of him. One day the little girl came across Tiny and she tells him that it doesn’t matter what he has done even if he has done bad things because Jesus still loves him. Tiny begins to cry as he is touched by the little child’s words. It’s a nice feel good song to end a relatively dark album.
Before Sunny Sweeney’s album last week I had not been blown away by an album in 2017. However, with this album now I have 2 album of the year candidates one from bluegrass and one from country. I talk about the idea of unique quite a bit on this blog and that is not by accident. I like to cover artists/albums that interest me because it inspires me to write. It wasn’t work for me to listen to this album nor was it work to write my feelings about it. I can’t recommend this album enough. Whether you are a bluegrass fan or not I think you should at least give this album one listen. The story telling and imagery are absolutely terrific and from a music standpoint they are great too. The coolest moments on this album are when they took chances and cut songs that stretched boundaries not only musically but lyrically. And if you are a more traditional bluegrass fan, well there are more traditional leaning songs on this album as well.
Album Grade: A
Best Songs: “Stay” “Cold Rain” ” The One She Adored”