Flashing back to the Old West, singer/songwriter Carl Wirkkala certainly doesn’t have modern-day Nashville on his radar. This kind of raw, no-frills country music has become a ghost town itself. Although the world mourned the passing of Johnny Cash, let’s not forget that prior to his death (and even now) it was only on alternative-rock stations where he found a home. Sadly, country radio has no respect for its rich heritage.
Lucky for us, Wirkkala doesn’t give a damn what Nashville thinks. The songs here about bank-robbing cowboys, trains and logging yearn for an America that really doesn’t exist anymore except in the phantom memories of its survivors and in dated photographs and dust-strewn manuscripts. In “Borderline,” Wirkkala takes us back to the Old West as two young gun-slingers, who flee to Mexico after holding up a bank, get lost in the desert as the authorities are hot on their trail. On “Rigging Man,” Wirkkala pays homage to the great American tradition of logging with a wickedly politically incorrect sense of humor: “And the air is filled with whistles and growls as they proclaim their love for the environmentalists and the spotted owls.” That line is a jarring reminder of the times we live in now, far away from the context of the LP.
If Wirkkala is living in the past, it’s hard to blame him. There is tremendous romanticism to be mined from the Old West with its share of icons and archetypes. In “Gun Fighter’s Last Ride,” Wirkkala explores the myth of the Western outlaw, as the song’s main character finds himself in a train filled with the ghosts of fallen peers, including Jesse James.
Deaf Jim Records: www.deafjimrecords.com