Henry Wagons: Expecting Company?
- So, Henry Wagons is finally striking out on his own. Well, sort of. It gets lonely on the open road, so Henry, thinking ahead, has found himself a different damsel with which to pass the time on every track of his solo debut, Expecting Comany? There's Alison Mosshart, Brous, Jenn Grant, Patience Hodgson, Gossling, oh and Robert Forster...not a lady, just so we're clear. For them Henry has penned a bunch of his grimly gothic, alt-country duets and they hoe into them like June Carter and Johnny Cash.
It's funny, Henry's got a wicked sense of humour, one that's hard to contain and it seems to infect everything he does, even when he's playing things fairly straight, as he is here. I guess it's hard to stop southern gothic from slipping over the line into schlock-horror. I don't know if I'm always into that, but there's certainly plenty of that action if it's your thing. Just check out the opener Unwelcome Company, where Henry and Alison Mosshart are kept up all night murdering...something. I couldn't work it out from Alison's screeching. Is it Angels? Gremlins? Rats? Zombies? Probably academic by the time the gore covered pair stumble back to bed. Mosshart really does sound scratchy and shrieky, I've heard her do better work out the front of The Dead Weather or The Kills.
The moral taint of forbidden love haunts the tormented "I'm In Love With Mary Magdalene", where Henry becomes madly obsessed with the portrait hung above his bed. Brous is really on home turf supplying Magdelane's voice, although, again, her big voice worked a bit better on her own, debut EP. Better production, maybe?
I really do like Canadian songstress Jenn Grant, who sounds every bit like a lady of version Will Oldham (looks a bit better than he does, thankfully), accompanied by licks of pedal-steel on the lazy country lilt of Give Things A Chance. The Grates' Patience Hodgson does fine work on the bloodthirsty grit and fuzzy of guitar of A Hangman's Work Is Never Done, but her contribution is limited to a single guest verse and chorus, kinda insubstantial. The other tune I really liked is the fatalistically resigned love song Give Me A Kiss. Gossling does her best Dolly Parton impression (and that's pretty good).
Expecting Company? was a mixed experience for me, just like Henry's voice, actually. When he gets up high and that vibrato wobbles about horribly, no thanks. His powerful bass register, though, that's something else entirely, I could listen to that all day. So too this record has some pretty sweet moments.
- Chris Cobcroft.