Wednesday, 19 September 2012



It goes without saying that expectations were high given the calibre of musicians involved in this ‘new’ US band. Perhaps the most well known and a chief reason why the endeavour has so many people talking is Garbage drummer and hit music producer Butch Vig (Nirvana’s Nevermind, Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream). All four members did play together at the top end of the 70s and the result of this collaboration over thirty years later has me wondering why the heck did they not share their empires much sooner?

A wonderful addition to the Americana catalogue, it takes in a cavalcade of sounds from alternative country to bluegrass, via American folk through to indie rock. Their distinct rock influences are prevalent throughout the record, serving to lessen the bombardment of country. Even the country, though, is infused so well with the pure American roots sound the album would have suffered without it. For the most part, it is all the right amounts of these many ingredients, creating a perfect mix. If it were a cake it would be one hell of a tasty treat. One you’d definitely want a second helping of, even a third. With custard, with ice-cream, or on its own. It is such a joy to listen to, it will go with anything.

There’s a Bob Dylan style to the sound and lyrics on some songs, such as first track The Bittersweet Sound of Goodbye, which opens with a sublime acoustic guitar melody. Avalanche Girl and Cruel Love Ways are two proper standouts with their reliance on a pop-rock type chorus that’ll have you humming them long after. In fact the latter has had me trawling through my memory trying to summon up what it sounds similar to. Alas, it has a life and beauty all its own that has left me unable to locate the comparison. The former subtly dazzles the ears with its change in style.

While it is clear this record is about a bunch of old musician friends having got together for a good old jam, the outcome sounds more like it’s from an already well-established band who have been working together for years. It feels defined, precise and quite unlike anything else I think I’ve heard for quite some time. I was shocked then, to learn the album was produced without any of the four band members coming together to record. The fact it sounds so seamless and crisp is to their credit.

Things get a little bit melancholy with the country laden lament of Never Got Over You, which also has some quality electric guitar mixed in. Phil Davis’ vocals are oak-aged but very finely so and they shine like a burning sun with the likes of I’m Your Man. This song is one of those that build up, collecting instruments along the way but the prominent banjo throughout its first act is perfection. This is topped only when it makes a welcome return emerging out of the middle mix of musical mayhem.

Traditional 19th century Wisconsin River ballad The Pinery Boy is bought crashing through the time vortex into the 21st century with its beginning conjuring a vivid vista of dusty Wild West roads. This soon opens up into a tour de force of thunderous guitar rumbling and a tunefully raucous display, sounding spot on. A beautifully atmospheric cover of John Martyn’s Bless The Weather ends the proceedings in a deliberately unhurried yet ethereal manner.

No, it doesn’t knock your socks off and I wouldn’t say it is sensational but not everything can be thus nor does it need to. What it is like, is a very expensive fine wine you’d have out for extra special occasions but then guiltily sneak yourself more than your guests.  It is a fine collection of songs and music worthy of your attention. Highly enjoyable, I do hope these Emperors are planning to build on their already solid Empire.

Frank Anderson - Lead guitar, lap steel guitar, pedal steel guitar, keyboards, banjo
Pete Anderson - Bass, 12 string electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Butch Vig - Drums, Percussion, keyboards, backing vocals
Phil Davis - Lead vocals, acoustic guitar, electric rhythm guitar, harmonica


  1. Hey there,

    I clicked here looking for a Dylan Mondegreen review (a link posted by the man himself). I haven't found it yet but I've really enjoyed hearing Melinda Ortner and Emperors of Wyoming. I'll keep checking back, and let you know when my own band release some new stuff...


    1. Hey, thanks for commenting Alex, it is much appreciated. I'm yet to complete and publish my review of Dylan's full album but there is a brief review of the latest single from the album, The Heart is a Muscle. This should be further down the post with the Melinda Ortner EP review.
      Definitely let me know when your band releases new stuff, do you have a website I can check out in the meantime?
      Thanks again :)

  2. Thanks - I don't know how I managed to scroll past without seeing it...

    Some of our older stuff is downloadable at the bottom of this page ("Dance Keith, Dance" is the newest):

    Alternatively there's

  3. Hey again Alex, thanks for your own link to songs too, I am loving what I've heard so far I will admit :-) I'd love to feature the band at some point if you like? Definitely interested in any new stuff you do too.

  4. Sorry I missed your reply - I look forward to hearing your next podcast. :D

    P.S. Did you know your blog comes up with an adult content warning? I haven't seen or heard anything that would deserve that and it could put people off...

  5. No worries mate :) The podcast is recorded and should be played on Acoustic Spectrum this Thursday. I'll get it online soon as I can too.
    I did know about the adult warning. I initially applied it just in case I swore within any posts etc but I don't believe I have done. I was just being overcareful perhaps. I've taken it off now in case it was having an undesired affect.