The Builders and the Butchers – Western Medicine album review

Portland residents by way of Alaska, The Builders and the Butchers play what can only be described as straight up country rock. It is literally country music that rocks out. The twang emanating from the vocal cords of front man Ryan Sollee acts as a finishing touch to the overall sound, cementing the aesthetic the band wants to convey.

And what of that aesthetic? It’s somewhat doom and gloom, Southern Gothic served up without a trace of irony or sentimentalism. The lyrics evoke images of burning deserts (Desert on Fire), funerary rites enacted amidst cold winter rain (No Roses), loaded guns and rusted train cars (Watching the World), and fevers, bleeding and poison (Hellfire Mountain).

There is an overall feeling of a sinner seeking repentance, a desire for absolution and release. From an instrumental standpoint, the general accompaniment style presented by ‘Watching the World’ goes a long way towards complementing the stylized pessimism contained in the lyrics; that lone half step dissonance played by the keyboardist is somehow poignant and foreboding, all at the same time.

All this should be expected from a group that started out calling themselves ‘The Funeral Band’. While all of this information may somehow convey the idea that this group is contrived in some way, the reality is that they are far from being contrived. The potency of the stories they tell and the conviction they convey imbues the music they create with the sincere intensity of a Baptist minister preaching to a rural farming community.

By Paul Paradis

Paul is a musician, writer, and teacher living in Tacoma. When not engaged in the endless task of raising his six year old whirling dervish James Sparhawk, he spends his time creating music, pursuing a bachelor's, working out, and living. He is originally from the east coast: Worcester, Mass. born, and Providence, RI bred. Having traveled around some, the Pacific Northwest tends to feel more and more like home with each passing day, Very similar to New England in some ways, but different in a way that is refreshing. Rock on.

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