As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth


Band: True Widow
Album: As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth
Best song:  “Skull Eyes” is magnificent.
Worst song: “Doomser” goes on too long.

I went to see Cat Power earlier this month. I think I’ve seen Chan Marshall perform six times, which puts here near or at the top of artists I’ve seen live (I’m long past the time when I keep count of these things, so please consider all numbers approximate). Marshall’s gotten better about performing live and is worlds better than the first time I saw her when she ran off the stage in the middle of performing a set at the Blueberry Hill in St. Louis. Instead, she only started and stopped on a couple of songs this time and her set list comprised mostly of songs from The Greatest, The Covers Record and You Are Free

(An aside: For what it’s worth, I do feel sympathy for her mental and physical health issues and understand that her stage fright comes from somewhere very honest and somewhere very vulnerable. And, really. No one forces me to buy a ticket to her shows whenever she plays near wherever I am. I go because I hope she’ll put on a flawless show, knowing full well that I’m a moron to hope for such a thing. The frog and the scorpion and such.)

But, at issue wasn’t the feature performer at this show; Marshall gave us the best set I’ve ever seen from her. At issue was the opening act, who meandered with a guitar, started and stopped a cover of a Velvet Underground song and vaguely played some sort of reworking “Something in the Way.” I, thankfully, don’t know the name of the opening act, but she was a total mess.

I say this by way of getting to True Widow. True Widow opened for Chelsea Wolfe on her most recent tour and is, to me, the perfect sort of opener. Before seeing them open for Wolfe, I don’t think I would’ve given the band a second look. But, knowing that they were opening on the Pain is Beauty tour, I dove right into the band’s music.

For a trio, the band’s sound is surprisingly full. Relying heavily on the low-end, the Dallas-based band has a sludgy slowcore sound, as though Bedhead made love to Witch Mountain. This is anything but a bad thing. The band’s 2011 album, As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth, works this particular thing to its best results. The riff in “NH,” for example, sounds like something thrown off of the first Sabbath album and slowed down. “Boaz” has picked chords surrounding Dan Phillips’ voice, while “Night Witches” is a quicker MBV-style rocker.

But, the best songs from As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth sound use bassist Nicole Estill as the primary vocalist. Opener “Jackyl” is sparse and deep, with Estill’s matter-of-fact delivery accenting the rhythms of the song. The band’s best song — and it was amazing live — is “Skull Eyes,” though. Using harmonies between Estill and Phillips for the chorus, the song has a delightfully heavy bass-based hook. During the verses, Estill falls somewhere between Aimee Mann and “Only Shallow”-era Bilinda Butcher.

I’m very glad Sargent House booked True Widow on the Pain is Beauty tour, if only because it gave me opportunity to get into a new band. True Widow is the real deal.

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