Los Angeles based singer songwriter GracieHorse has played quite a bit of music, including in a Boston fuzz rock band called Fat Creeps and contributing vocals to a lot of indie bands. But she’s been on a hiatus for several years now, mostly working as a traveling nurse in various places around the U.S. An on-the-job injury ended that endeavor but sparked a creative explosion, and the result is the cathartic country rock of L.A. Shit.
The musical bones of this release are very ’70s SoCal country rock – Harvest, Burritos, SHF Band, that sort of thing. But lyrically we’re closer to some blend of Guyville-era Liz Phair and especially Mary Prankster in her alt-country days in the early 2000s. I welcome any return of sassy, foul-mouthed, feminist twang-rock!
The first single and album opener “Hollow Head” is also the oldest of the album’s nine songs, started some 15 years ago. Her ‘luded-out, slurred vocals juxtaposed against the abrasive dual electric guitar twang highlight the venomous lyrics about, well, some guy who tried to control and push her around.
If I had a genie, to grant me a wish
A big shiny airplane, with a flick of his wrist
I’d fly as far away from you as I could and start again …
…I’d bite and draw blood, I’d rattle and hiss
I’d shed my skin to get away from all this.
The second single “What I’m Missing,” is some real cosmic country shit, a slow shuffle with tons of pedal steel, more electric twang, some tinkling piano and a very Angel Olsen chorus. And a video that’d do Southern Culture on the Skids proud.
Third to drop was the enigmatic “If You’re Gonna Walk That Straight Line Son, It’s Only Gonna Hurt,” with a much cleaner lead guitar line, another mid-tempo shuffle that again frankly should appeal to fans of Olsen’s earlier, folksier music and even her superb Big Time.
The pace picks up considerably on the rumbling “By the Light of His White Stetson,” which despite the lack of pedal steel is one of my favorite tracks. Miles Wintner lays down some truly stabbing guitar lines that emphasize the acidic lyrics about another toxic male encounter. Things also bop right along on the funky two-step of “Backup Slowly,” where she advises a stranger to not antagonize yet another psycho man. I sense a theme here! Things also really gallop along in the cinematic and enigmatic “Words of the new West.” Laying down a loping beat on the toms is the multi-instrumentalist Emmett Kelly, who contributes guitar to the more acoustic-leaning reprise of “Hollow Head.” That one features Madelyn Strutz on banjo, as does the sinister album closer “Run Ricky Run.”
Strutz and Kelly are but two of a large crew of session players and indie musicians who helped GracieHorse realize her vision for this record. Strutz has played on innumerable sessions and has done some solo work, as has Kelly, who has also been a member of the experimental Natural Information Society. Other players include the aforementioned Miles Wintner who plays both drums and guitars, Jeremy Pfau on some real honky-tonk piano, and both Connor Gallagher of The Night Collectors and Tim Ramsey of Parting Lines on pedal steel.
If you’re in the mood for some superbly atavistic California country rock with lyrics that read like a rough draft of a script for Thelma and Louise, Part 2, you’re in luck. GracieHorse’s L.A. Shit is all of that and more.
(Wharf Cat Records, 2023)