What happens when industrial musicians get older? Apparently, they listen to a lot of Tom Waits and Nick Cave and classic jazz and blues and make an album that’s spooky in an entirely different way than might be expected.
Chris Randall’s The Devil His Due is an album full of stories of evil and loss, with a funeral carny stomp that recalls Nick Cave at his most mad-preacher-killer best, while a few tracks could be outtakes from Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs album. There are hints of country-gothic in here as well, and a brooding rendition of “St. James Infirmary,” the jazz standard that has taken on a new meaning, for me at least, since Katrina leveled much of New Orleans. The song is at once a dirge for a lost love and a bit of laughter in the face of death, and Randall’s husky croon breathes it with new life.
It’s easy to write records off as derivative because they sound like something you’ve heard before, but Randall’s best assets here are his voice—deep but breathy, sexy but foreboding—and his deep feeling for classic American music. Though the record was made in Oregon, it feels like French Quarter streets lit with gas lamps, drinking out of a bottle in a paper bag with the hushed roar of the Mississippi going by.
Randall has taken the old story about the blues singer selling his soul at the crossroads and crafted an album around it, weaving traditional strands of American music into the palette of stories about deals with the Devil and the myriad characters he’s created or adapted. Fans of his earlier work should still be able to relate to this record, and fans of Cave and Waits and today’s darker alt-country and blues should like it as well.