Will Scott’s Keystone Crossing Mines Dark Americana
Best known as a mesmerizing Mississippi hill country-style blues guitarist, Will Scott is actually an eclectic master of all things Americana. His latest album Keystone Crossing is a characteristically dark, fearless, completely original mix of both acoustic and electric blues, oldtime country and gospel sounds. It’s the best thing he’s done, and it’s one of the best albums that’s come over the transom here this year. Right off the bat with the album’s first track, White River Rising, Scott sets a mood and just doesn’t let up – the brooding ambience is relentless. This particular number is a grim tale of hard times in the floodlands with layers of mandolin, dobro, organ and guitars. The second track, Derry Down starts out skeletal and ominously whispery and builds from there to illustrate a creepy nocturnal tableau. Just to Ferry Me Over has the feel of a chain gang song, defiant and resolute – Scott’s not ready to go before his time. The band builds almost imperceptibly to a hypnotic, haunting ambience, Dave Palmer’s organ and Ben Peeler’s steel guitar whining eerily over the rustic handclaps and Scott’s forceful delivery.
An outlaw country take on oldschool soul music, Right to Love is another number that builds slowly and methodically, terse, gospel-fueled piano leading the way. Ain’t Gonna Rain sets torrents of doomed imagery to an apprehensively swinging midtempo minor-key Texas shuffle: “Never known justice, but someday I’ll get mine,” Scott intones. He’s never sung more potently, or more subtly than he does here, particularly on the chilling, atmospheric badlands ballad Broken Arrow. An escape anthem, Last Rest Stop has a western swing-flavored bounce that contrasts with the bitterness of the lyric. The band maintains that vibe on the hard-rocking kiss-off anthem You Said You’d Take Me to Spain, the one place on the album where Scott’s guitar really takes off – he’s the rare guitarist you actually want to hear more of. The album winds up on an unexpectedly upbeat note with an organ-fueled, Sam Cooke style soul number. The instrumentation and the vernacular here may be completely retro, yet this album is solidly in the here and now: fans of Americana from delta blues, to Waylon and Willie, to Hayes Carll ought to check this out. Scott is currently on European tour; watch this space for NYC gigs toward the end of the summer.
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