Peaches are no longer grown in Georgia, and good country music no longer comes from the South. These days it seems like the only country music worth listening to comes from places like San Diego, Denver, and Detroit.
The latter is where the band Blanche formed around front man Dan Miller, who used to play in Goober & the Peas, which is a pretty great name. “Little Amber Bottles” is their second full-length album, and picks up where their much lauded “If We Can’t Trust the Doctors,” left off.
When I speak of country music I don’t mean the type put out by the colossal force, but diminutive in stature, Kenny Chesney. Blanche falls into the category now being called alt-country, or even Neo-Traditional, but is actually far closer to roots music than most things going by country. It’s dark, relies heavily on the twang of banjo complimented with slide and electric guitar. My Appalachian Mountain-dwelling ancestors would have been proud.
At its core, this music is all about storytelling, and is best represented by the song “The World I Used To Be Afraid Of.” It is a simple ditty about a man driven to murder after being shunned by the girl he loves. It sounds grim, but is delivered with a wry sense of humor that puts it in the same category as Johnny Cash’s “Delia’s Gone.” However, a mean slide guitar in the middle of “World” gives it an up-tempo feel lacking in “Delia.”
Even when venturing towards a more rock and roll sound, Blanche infuses it with a swampy sound. “What This Town Needs,” combines hard hitting electric guitar and alternating lyrics sung by Miller and his wife Tracee, who’s haunting voice graces most of the tracks.
While frequently gleeful, songs like “O’ Death, Where Is Thy Sting?” fully embrace the gloom. While not likely to endear it to fans of relentlessly cheerful music, Blanche encompasses the sphere of human emotion in one album.
Solid songwriting and spectacular instrumentals make “Little Amber Bottles” a worthwhile listen. If you cringe at the twang of an accent or banjo, it might not be for you, but give it a chance and you may become a convert.