The Prowling Kind – Tennessee

The Prowling Kind was one of my favorite debuts of last year, along with the likes of Celebration Guns, Twin Ponies, Northern Hustle and of course Fairy Bones, this was one band that rocked my world in 2013–unlike the other bands listed, I unfortunately never got to write about their album at the time. I blame it on the fact that JAVA Magazine has no August issue and by the time I did get their album it was long past its release, so I’m fixing that now, because I love their debut Tennessee. It’s not like I didn’t know the album was coming or when it would be released, I was at a ton of their early shows, but by the time the Fall rolls around I’m usually scheduled out to the end of the year, so some things fall through the cracks. So, to make up for that mistake, I’d like to spend a thousand words or so on an album I love from last year that I never wrote about and give Tennessee it’s proper due.

“In fear for her life, Norah took her then-3-year-old daughter Mickey Louise and fled her home in Knoxville Tennessee. Mickey’s convict father was hot in pursuit, causing them to live in hiding for the next 15 years. These songs tell the story that ensued.”

The above quote is from the inlay of the album and sets the listener up for what they can look forward to in the thirty-five minutes that follows. I wrote once about them, “What this band has, is the power to move you. They do so through delivering songs that could be defined by multiple genres; in a way that maintains the consistency of their sound. Their influences are: Loretta Lynn, Buddy Holly, Beck, the Black Keys, Fiona Apple, Jack White & Jimi Hendrix, which actually sums it up nicely” and this still holds up true an even more so as they are slowly unveiling their new songs and perfecting the live performance of the tracks from Tennessee. That quote was about a live show, possibly the first, I witnessed and their shows have only gotten better over the last year. There is something magical about the combination of Mickey Pangburn’s vocals and guitar with Jesse Pangburn’s drums in line with Chad Cole’s bass (since replaced by David Maddox who I believe has made the live experience better), the multi-instrumental talent of Erin Beal and the searing guitar of Zach Tullis that crafts a sound that is uniquely their own. Surely, steeped in blues, rock and Americana, The Prowling Kind have left an indelible stamp in my mind based on both their recordings and their live act, especially their live act. Tennessee is flawless.

“Babycakes” kicks the whole the whole thing off and it is one of the most blazing, rocking numbers on the whole album–it’s also a great set starter as I recall. As far as I can tell, it tells the most of the story that is alluded to in the album inset as Mickey and her mother take off on their fifteen year adventure of running from her fugitive father. Kudos to Troi Lowney for the Rhodes bit at the end, it totally makes the song and adds a timeless dimension to the song. Mickey’s mom used to call her “Babycakes” and that’s where the title comes from, which is sweetly appropriate as the entire song feels as though you are fleeing to safety with them to a land of tumbleweeds. What follows is “After All” which is another signature song for the band and live, it is absolutely hypnotic, there is another timeless feel to this one that has the same effect of Julee Cruise in David Lynch movies. Complete with a Phil Spector drum intro, dreamy vocals by Mickey and an ever ascending guitar line this is one of my favorite softest songs of last year. The repeated lesson lyrically is that “After all, all that really matters is who you love and who love backs” and that’s a sentiment that is eternal and complete truth. It’s a bit of raw honesty that is delivered beautifully.

There is no doubt that “Melted Together” was a clear single from the start and has since become one since the release of the album. For a great experience check out the amazing video for this song, which you can find HERE and you can even read the review if so inclined. I truly wish that the album came with a lyric sheet, because the story is a fascinating one and Mickey’s lyrics come across as pure poetry as she describes the loves and losses she witnessed in her mother’s life. And though I’ve never asked, from repeated listens, that is what I assume much of this album is concerned with. This is simply a powerful song that is perfect in all capacities and features a brilliant banjo part by Niko Kovacevic. It is also perfect staging for the fuzz rock of the title track “Tennessee” that follow, which sounds closer to The Raveonettes than any of their admitted influence, though it does evoke a touch of The Kills come to think of it. Another great hard rocking number, it describes a man of interest that may sounds like a it of rock’n'roller and certainly a drug dealer, but there is allure and danger and thus the attraction. The delivery here is great and the song screams of danger at every moment. Simply brilliant.

With “Weak” I have to say that the glockenspiel by Beal, as well as her harmonies with Mickey are simply amazing. A true Americana number, it feels like a hidden treasure amongst an album filled with so much gold. Mickey has a certain “babydoll” sound with her voice on this number and it adds to the strong declaration that “I won’t ever fall in love again” and the approach to deep romantic conflicts. I’d say it’s a driving road number, but that’s what this album is about and it seems redundant, but it is, so it needs mention. “Vertigo” is as dizzying as its title suggest and it’s deep into the blues, brilliantly so, with a superior bass line that drags it South perfectly. By about two minutes in the combination of swirling guitars, fuzz bass and Mickey’s voice will have you absolutely spinning. It also happens to finish out with the finest guitar solo on the album that will blow your mind if you have an inclination toward that sort of thing. Another wonderful treasure is “Fine Fine Fine” which is a locomotive track with a Johnny Cash rhythm, glockenspiel and banjo that drives home some wicked wisdom from a woman who is clearly vastly superior to her man. I am not sure what is better in this song between the music and the lyrics, because the latter are pretty brilliant and the arrangement is perfect: “How long will it take, for you to realize, the clock’s ticking right before your eyes, you’ve gotta stop, you’ve gotta learn to be present…saying you’re fine fine fine, but you’re not.” The entire thing is so clever it makes my hurt in all regards. They may want to think about unleashing this on the country charts, honestly.

Another unusual arrangement, centered around Beal’s glockenspiel and what sounds like a stand up bass, the starkness makes “Brazen Girl” really stand out. Here the lyrical concern is a woman watching another woman trying to seduce her lover with a smile that he will never leave her side. It’s short, sweet and to the point and it seems like something that could easily pulled off an album from 1963. It’s amazingly simplistic and yet, quite complicated–both in the musical scheme and the psychology behind the song. It’s a bit catty, but such a cool presentation that you just can’t help but smile through the whole damn thing. The album proper finishes with the darkness of “Wiser For The Wear” with a grainy sound of sandblasted acetate or a certain vinyl warmth, which adds a certain black and white feel to the movie that plays in your mind as it describes, what I assume is Mickey’s mother sipping chamomile tea and reflecting on her life. Featuring the muted trombone of Dr. Charles Hopkins, it comes off with a jazz flair that finishes this chapter of the story perfectly. It seems to finish on a not of bitterness from both sides in which no one is left trusting anyone else and there is but endless reflections on the lack of smiles in their present lives. It drifts off into the dreamy sound of a crowded bar or restaurant. Endless. Timeless. Amazing. Found at the end is a live recording of an acoustic performance of “Melted Together” which actually serves the record as a coda in a sense that it returns to one of the strongest tracks and reminds the listener of the lovers when they were together. I usually don’t agree with placing a bonus track like this at the end of an album, but here it helps to encapsulate the entire experience of Tennessee, and acoustic it’s different enough from the album track that it in n o way feels redundant.

After reading all that, I truly hope you want to check out The Prowling Kind, because they are completely worth your time. They have an amazing show tonight at Crescent Ballroom with some absolutely amazing company which includes Wooden Indian, Snake!Snake!Snakes! and The Madera Strand–three of my favorite bands. This is an amazing lineup and The Prowling Kind are going to unleash a ton of new songs and some new surprises from what they’ve told me. Mickey said it would be a “Very special show” and I have no reason to doubt her and believe me, you want to catch the new songs because, from the ones I’ve heard, they have really come a long way and they are tuning into a pretty fantastic rock vibe that will blow your mind. Please join me and these wonderful bands tonight at the Crescent for a mid-week night of simply excellent music.