Tin Horn Prayer - Grapple the Rails
Record Label: Paper + Plastick
Release Date: Nov. 6, 2012
Sometimes there are just songs you have to hear. The jangly and sweetly affecting "Stumble," from Tin Horn Prayer's sophomore album Grapple the Rails is one such song. Anchored by circular guitars and a playful bounce that invites hip-shaking and beer-swilling, the song has a swerve and zest that is absolutely unshakeable. That sense of swerve and zest is revisited in the punchy "Call a Priest," which teems with punk energy; the frenetic and frisky "Body in My Basement," which somehow makes hiding a cadaver sound charming; and "All's Well That Ends," a smoking and steamy affair that indubitably showcases the Colorado sextet's mastery at work.
Grapple the Rails' most commercial effort is "Rosie," a driving march of a song, which features vocals from Hot Water Music's Chuck Ragan. While the song is a bit of an anomaly stacked up against the rest of the record, it serves itself well and doesn't veer off too far into no man's land. Fans of Ragan will find something to like here and that small statement should not go unnoticed. Sometimes a well-placed guest spot can open up doors and "Rosie," might be the sound of that proverbial door-opening.
If any of the near half-dozen listed above do not turn heads, then perhaps "You Won't," will do the trick. A slow-moving affair that begins downtempo and despondent, the song moves into something wider, far-reaching and transcendent. That sense of timelessness is revisited in the expertly arranged "All's Well That Ends," and the craggy "Moonshiner." Though there's a weary sentiment to many of the songs on Grapple the Rails, "All's Well That Ends,' and "Moonshiner," appear to find moments of hope and buoyancy and that small fact should not go unnoticed.
Every album has a centerpiece, an apex moment that towers over all the others. While album opener "Execution Line" and album closer "Dear Friends," certainly deserve consideration for that title, the real standouts are "Dying to Dry" and "Fire in the Jailhouse." The former is a yearning and layered affair that builds towards an awe-inspiring conclusion. Intricate, nuanced and nothing short of brilliant, it is the sound of a band firing on all cylinders. But perhaps even more impressive is the latter, a rousing stew of jangly guitars, swerving bass and ebullient drums. With a tenacity and tautness that is far too hard to overlook, "Fire in the Jailhouse," hints at signs of something truly stunning.
While Grapple the Rails is almost comical in how much frontman Mike Herrera sings of darker subject matters (whiskey, murder, drugs, fire, etc), the disc's collective charm rests in the backing band that accompanies him. As the name alludes to this is not a Herrera solo project but indeed a full-band effort and that is readily apparent on nine of the eleven songs. Buttressed by nuanced and intricate guitar work, an air-tight rhythm section and an innate sense of both song structure and depth, Grapple the Rails is further proof that Tin Horn Prayer are indeed on the precipice of something truly stunning. Ruminative and reaching, it is the unmistakable sound of true veterans at work. If only all music could sound as effortless, engaging and enveloping as this. Sigh. If only.