Who doesn’t like a bit of country music, or at least a bit of Johnny Cash? I like Johnny Cash a lot, especially his lyrics and his poetry (yes, he wrote poetry, too). That’s why I was not put off by this piece of country music being marketed as “masculine”, although that word did stick out from the press info like a nasty pimple. Maybe I was a bit provoked by it. It certainly triggered my stubbornness and I decided to check out the band Deathbarrel and their new EP Rebuke Revoke. The editor humoured me and here we are.

Starting with the blurb accompanying the release, Rebuke Revoke turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The description of the band and their music successfully evoked an atmosphere, and that atmosphere was enhanced and confirmed by the EP’s four songs. After having read the blurb, I had a pretty good picture of what this was about and how it would sound. Maybe you will to. This is what it said:

“DEATHBARREL is the sound of wrenches and motor oil, of Saturday night beers and truck stops, of longing and loss, of late evenings and aching muscles, of endless roads and shore leave, of the dreams of freedom that all and any working man feels deep in his soul. Grits and stale sandwiches, phone calls that were never returned, funerals you were too far away from, friends found and friends lost (…).”

The world described was that of Charles Bukowski and Ernest Hemingway, of Tom Waits and Johnny Cash, of Firewater and Amigo the Devil. The latter the band went on tour with recently. And while I still don’t like the word “masculine” and consider it unnecessary, I’ll admit that it is fitting.

What else do all the artists listed above have in common? Quite a few things, actually, but among the more important ones is certainly a fondness of alcohol. As thematized in their music and their writing, it is their solace and their curse. It is their go-to comfort, but every glass, every sip, takes them further down the road of being an outcast from society and makes it more difficult to go back. So, if you like literature and music made by men fond of the booze, you will also like Deathbarrel. And, no, you do not have to be a guy to like it.

Deathbarrel, who sound like they were born and bred in the American South, are from Stavanger, Norway. But unless somebody told you, you would never know. From the instruments, to the sound and the lyrics, this is undeniably country music, although country music with an underground twist. “Norwegian outlaw country” is what the band call it, but if that is a genre, then Deathbarrel are the only band in it.

The EP’s four tracks feature country laced with blues and rock, the sound of trumpets and occasionally that of a violin, telling you stories of society’s outcasts via episodes from their lives.

This is yet another example of underground culture reclaiming music corrupted by the mainstream. Today, what is considered American country music, could not be further from its hillbilly origins. Deathbarrel are taking country back where it belongs, among the working-class poor. Well done.

(7.5/10 Slavica)