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One listen to Ironsight confirms that country rock oughta have its own commercial designation, rather than being lumped alongside modern country artists.
While Handasyd Williams and the Primitives wear their country influences proudly, they’re following an outlaw tradition steeped in renegade anti-glamour, glorying in unabashed big ideas and unhinged electric guitars as much as fiddles and mandolins and eschewing the rum and bubblegum post-pop of the mainstream country music variety.
Contemporary country music, whose jingles and videos mostly reflect the delusional notion that all is sunny and well in Abbott’s Australia, oughta be filed in the Kids section.
The Primitives’ take on country rock revels in its antecedents in Americana – the furious rumblings of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, the Dirty South, Jayhawks, and Uncle Tupelo. That rock and roll strain grants itself license to savour elements of grunge, punk and folk music while allowing a free hand at political and social issues. Psychedelia is only a feedback solo away and that leaves the ground way open for left-field subject matter. They are an entirely different bag of cats.
Ironsight takes that license and runs hard with it, riding a lyrical wave that veers from pure Nineties angst to more rarefied political and sociological dialogues.
It’s outspoken and it’s angry, and in a world like ours, any worthy artist is angry about something – whether that be a dodgy record deal or say, Bayer selling HIV infected haemophiliac medication to Japan and Germany.
The subject matter is wide and far ranging, but if you’re a corrupt banker or politician, an arms dealer or a coal miner, you can bet you’re on its hit list. Handasyd favours a cranky falsetto to assassinate his various targets, and an enigmatic lyrical approach that leaves the Enemy fairly well open to interpretation. The album owes as much to Husker Du and Dinosaur Jnr as Willie Nelson, so greasy electric guitars lubricate the grim subject matter enough to keep it taut and wild.
The Primitives are a well oiled machine, giving heft and balance to the vitriol contained across twelve tracks. They’re adepts at the loping cadence of country rock, and the multi-instrumental attack of Rhys Webb and Handasyd Williams, in cahoots with Mark Oats’ fiddle and the deadly presence of Jason Walker’s pedal steel makes for some convincing ruminations.
Ironsight is a tough, no nonsense trek through contemporary country rock territory. Consumed by some pretty serious issues, its fixation on the wild side of dirty rock music holds its head above a death by polemics.