Ivy/Sounds of the American West

Like Missouri’s Bottle Rockets, Hominy launches a powerful American aesthetic from a solid rock footing. Crafted over several years, this eponymous debut pays tribute to the artists who’ve shaped Americana rock, revisits familiar outback geography, and furthers the hardtwang tradition by updating the desperate characters found there, giving them painfully post-modern stories.

Frontwoman/songwriter Jessie Sykes has a voice reminiscent of Grace Slick at her Volunteers best. The guitar playing of her husband, Jim Sykes, bends with the elastic grit and keen riffing sense of Neil Young at Zuma Beach. Jim’s glowing, dusky leads underscore Jessie’s soulful, midnight vocals. Drummer Kevin Blackwood and bassist Duffy Williams precision tune the rhythm section, grounding in metronomic obsidian the heavenward thrust of voice and guitar.

Named for a Southern dish, Hominy’s Bible-belt moniker misleads. Their sound is more western than country, more Hell’s Angels than Southern Baptist angels. The CD cover better reveals Hominy’s essence. High on the blood red liner rides the mounted head of a longhorn steer, international symbol for rangeland carnivores. Below that a girl points to Chinese characters on a wall. Together the images suggest both the band’s home in Seattle, the multi-culti metropolis where Montana meets the Orient, and the Democracy Wall of folk-country-rock, a genre with roots in the electrification of one-time protest crooner Bob Zimmerman.

Jessie’s ear for potent lyrics loads the CD with memorable phrases. “If I didn’t kill you in my dreams I’d kill you in your sleep,” she sings in “Sunny Days and Raisinets,” a manifesto of relational dissolution so bitter it should be heard in the soundtrack to any remake of Thelma and Louise. In “Trinity Pass,” the embattled heroine describes herself as “thrown like a baby off the Grand Coulee dam.” Suchlike dark eloquence descends on every song.

From the prostitute receiving a catty comeuppance in “Closing Day,” to rant-writing doper “Marty the Medic,” Hominy characters live large in the demimonde of Route 66 criminality. Even the band photo on the CD’s back cover is reminiscent of no human enterprise so much as Matt Dillon’s Portland-based, pharmacy-jacking, desperado gang in Drugstore Cowboy.

It will be a long time before rock’n roll marriages in Seattle will be compared to any coupling other than that of unwitting poster children, Kurt & Courtney. However, with this much bandito salsa enriching Hominy, Jim & Jessie Sykes go a long way toward differentiating themselves as the Emerald City’s new Bonnie and Clyde. Sounds of the American West, P.O. Box 1994, Seattle, WA 98111-1994

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