Tin Horn Prayer – Get Busy Dying

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Tin Horn Prayer

Get Busy Dying - Bermuda Mohawk Records

Why it has taken so long for Denver, CO’s Tin Horn Prayer to grace my ear drums I’ll never know.  Releasing their debut full length almost a year ago, I can’t believe my obliviousness to this raging punked-up bluegrass sextet and their rock solid gem, Get Busy Dying.  For those forever of the prowl for bands that can live up to the impossibly high bar set by Lucero and Chuck RaganTin Horn Prayer is a godsend.

Not only does Tin Horn Prayer land every note with the perfect measure of country twang and move with the life of a writhing after-dark saloon, while still managing to take listeners by the hand and guide them down a very coherent path led with ten unique and evolving turns (read: tracks).  Balance is key on Get Busy Dying, and to this end Tin Horn Prayer achieves a rustic traditional flavour without succumbing to the warmth and safety of over-worn clichés.

Boasting a full band soundscape featuring springy mandolins, rural guitars, and a punchy bass line as soul flooding as a drunkard’s whiskey bottle is deep; the group’s chemistry is one of old friends embarking on new adventures.

You’d never suspect Get Busy Dying was a debut.

Better Living” bursts open with punked-up, upbeat bursts of mandolin led sing along choral goodness, followed by the light hearted, harmonica and banjo centric tongue in cheek “Crime Scene Clean Up Team” – an apologetic letter to forensic clean-up teams after snapping under daily pressure and indulging in some rather fatal stress relief (“crime scene clean up team, I’m sorry for the mess I’m going to make/the first thing that you’ll notice when you’re walking down the hall, is that red picaso painting that I painted on the wall”).  Others like “Fighting Sleep” base themselves around an irresistible swagger, while “Devil Makes Me” serves as a moody banjo and accordion showpiece with a smooth bluesy guitar lining.  Primary vocalist Mike Herrera takes a break from his Tom Waits-esque howling, instead playing second fiddle to another, cleaner vocalist, who’s softer style lines up with the track’s casual chord structure.

At about the half way mark, some of the darker imagery catches up with the band’s basic mood, leading to a reduced tempo, and contemplative mood setters.  “Crowbait” opens with the disheartened line that the “heart’s too weary to raise this middle finger,” revealing a sense of regret, with “Memory” looking to a higher power, asking “god, can you mend this broken frame?”  Thankfully they never give up – when push comes to shove, revving back up the tempo and admitting that in a heart beat, they’d “do it all again.”

Few artists demonstrate the art of the album like Tin Horn Prayer.  While tracks are independently strong, their contrasting instrumental and tempo characteristics amplify individual strengths.  When a song is energetic, it’s fast; when a track is sad, it’s slow.  If it’s angry it’s frantic, and remorseful it’s sluggish.  A simple formula to be sure, but one surveying enough variety to let each song’s purpose shine through.