All Them Witches – ‘Dying Surfer Meets His Maker’

It’s a pity not many people know of or fully appreciate All Them Witches. Although still youthful in their songcraft, they are a remarkably talented group of musicians. Their third LP is their most refined and calculated yet. Commendable, considering it was mostly recorded live.

The Nashville-based band manage to effortlessly brew a deeply organic and whole sound within this record. An eclectic mix of resonant psychedelia with Southern acoustic soul, stylish blues rock and stoner sensibilities is supported by the clearly apparent and excellent chemistry between the band members. Ultimately, the albums success is dictated by the acutely-convincing aesthetic created by the near-mastery of their respective instruments.

The mellow and organic aesthetic is immediately enforced in opener ‘Call Me Star’ with multi-guitarist and vocalist Michael Parks Jr’s slow delivery, coupled with underlying semi-acoustic tones. The band’s diversity and ability to cover multiple genres is demonstrated in follow-up track ‘El Centro’, an eight-minute progressive stoner jam. Multi-layered, experimental guitar lines and intermissive walls of fuzzy bass showcases the band’s jamming prowess on this instrumental.

Punk-infused ‘Dirt Preachers’ displays Robby Staebler’s confident and rhythm-setting drumming that runs alongside Parks Jr’s twangy, fuzz-ridden bass. The high-quality ceases to stop going into ‘This is Where It Falls Apart’, a downtempo blues ballad with prominent harmonica melodies. Acoustic interlude ‘Mellowing’ calls back to Led Zeppelin III-era Jimmy Page with its sharp, noodly finger-picking.

It would be unfair to not give equal credit to all members of All Them Witches, yet lead guitarist Ben McLeod really dominates the attention of the listener with his sublime lead work throughout the entirety of the record. His haunting and primeval licks on ‘Instrumental 2 (Welcome to the Caveman Future)’ lead seamlessly into ‘Talisman’, a track with multiple dynamic composites. The final act of this cut features some of McLeod’s finest lead work, developing a multi-layered guitar refrain that descends into a sustained, fuzzy coda.

Closer ‘Blood and Sand / Milk and Endless Water’ is an epic end to a record with many memorable moments. Parks Jr’s spoken, echoed vocals underlie Staebler’s plodding drum beat as McLeod experiments with arpeggiated and distorted guitar. All Them Witches have developed their sound to a high level of refinement, despite going against the odds of recording the album through live simultaneous performance. They are surely a band worth taking note of.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Essential tracks: Dirt Preachers // Open Passageways // Talisman

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