All Them Witches – Sleeping Through the War (New West Records)

Tennessee psych-blues outfit return with boundary pushing fourth album

Released Feb 23rd, 2017 via New West Records / By Richard Lewis
All Them Witches – Sleeping Through the War (New West Records) Reaching a wider audience through their most recent LP Dying Surfer Meets His Maker issued in Europe last February, Nashville outfit All Them Witches return with a focussed take on their self described ‘psychedelta’ sound on their fifth LP Sleeping Through the War.

A lean, sleek beast clocking in at 46 minutes, the eight cuts showcase ATW refining their hallmark psych-blues approach to something more immediate. Swerving away from the M.O. of some psych bands of piling instruments on top of one another in a vain attempt to sound 'intense' until the structure topples over due to the lack of any actual tunes, All Them Witches are masters of allowing the music to breathe to create expansive atmospheres.

A unit of exemplary musical power drummer Robby Staebler and keys player Allan Van Cleave create propulsive, fluid grooves that allow ample room for axeman Ben McLeod’s brilliant guitar embellishments and lead singer/bassist Charles Michael Parks’ melodic toplines.

The titular 'war' is unclear (take your pick between the never-ending engagements in Iraq and Iran), the title derivied from the beautifully uncoiling blues of opening cut Bull ‘I’m driving round my worries/I’m sleeping through the war’ which switches to a double time riff and a deep immersion Mellotron strings.

Revving up for a troika of three minute blasts, the tension-filled Don’t Bring Me Coffee booms along like Dirty era Sonic Youth, the lyric ‘Every night another woman crawls out my chest/she tells me it’s alright/No need to be so upset’, sounding akin to an encounter with a succubus and one of the chestbursters from Alien.

Superb lead single Bruce Lee founded on a vocal drone is one of the fastest tracks in the group’s catalogue to date, a rip-roaring excursion founded on a formidable engine room thrum that races past in just over three minutes, while in contrast 3-5-7 is a slow burning delight and possibly the strongest track here, a slab of cosmic space rock that demonstrates the ground the ‘Witches now cover since their initial gothic infused stoner rock of their early days.

Am I Going Up? is a masterpiece of restraint, built around a percolating delay pedal guitar riff and Van Cleave’s synth strings while the presence of additional vocalists including fellow Nashville native, country singer Caitlin Rose on on this and two other tracks to provide extra harmonic layers works excellently on Alabaster.

Cowboy Kirk is slightly uninspired compared to the other tracks present, a blues workout of the type that the band mastered long ago, while the misanthropic blues of Internet takes aim at Tim Berners-Lee’s gift to the world via the World Wide Web, ‘If you’re saying I can’t live here/guess I’ll go live on the Internet’ that stretches out into a sunlit coda.

And to refer back to Am I Going Up? Yep, they certainly are, the ‘Witches and their coven continue to ascend steadily.