40. U.S. Christmas - The Valley Path
According to the band's page on the web site of their current label (Neurot Recordings): "U.S. Christmas is a band from the Appalachian mountains in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The band plays a unique brand of psychedelic, high-volume blues rock that evades any easy classification."
I concur. The closest comparison I can make is to sludgy post-metal acts such as Yakuza
(incidentally, frontman Nate Hall - if indeed this collective actually has a frontperson per se - was wearing a Minsk
shirt when I saw them opening for Baroness
in 2009). This particular recording from USX
, as they are known by their fans, is comprised of a single track which is almost forty minutes long (which in turn consists of approximately five different "movements"). It's tempting to call it an EP, but technically I believe it is considered to be a full-length album. Either way, the epic track is said to be inspired by a concept which was conceived by one of the album's songwriters (I forget who it was, but I read it in an interview somewhere), who said he was sitting on his porch looking across the road at the forest and thinking about what it would sound like if they could write an album that would capture the essence of what was going on inside that forest...or something like that. All I know is that the concept was deep, and indeed, the track sounds like it was inspired by events which were slow-moving, expansive and ancient. The mournful violin of Meghan Mulhearn can often be heard deftly accenting the multitude of guitars and drums that repetitively drive the music. The whole thing just drags the listener in, inducing an almost trance-like state. It's just fantastic stuff. One word of caution, though - this is not an album that can be taken in small doses. It must be experienced in its entirety, if the full effect is to be understood. This isn't something you put on in your car while you're driving to the store. This isn't workout music. You're not going to hear this at a house party (I don't care how "metal" the party is). This is headphone music. This is music that is best enjoyed during downtime, or whilst doing something repetitive that requires little to no focus (like writing a music review, for example
). All this being said, even though this album may be somewhat challenging, it is also extremely rewarding.