The Wages Of Sin is Jimmy Swope’s debut solo album freshly released on Farmageddon Records -- yet another stellar release to add to their shelf of consistency. There’s not a lot out there about Swope, who hails from Hagerstown, MD, and writes some of the saddest country songs I’ve ever heard. That's pretty much all I can offer up. Swope offers up his custom style of cantankerous murder country – equals parts salvation and debauchery. Songs about women, murder, suicide, drugs, booze, love, and loss are all delivered in a classy '70s cocaine country vibe, yoked with stellar country musicians, and it's one of the better country records I’ve heard in years. The off-base song content and mysteriousness of Swope alone keep an interest, but this is real country music, not a gimmick or in any way a disrespect. Farmageddon’s stable of artists walk this line quite often, toting the tagline, “For the music, by the music.”
The Wages Of Sin was recorded at Andy Gibson’s studio in Nashville, TN in 2013 and provides a wild insight to the innards of bleak sorrows and losses, situations not imagined as much as they come across autobiographical. A collection of well-crafted sad ballads are sewn together with intelligent lyrics and quintessential country fills. This disc is chock full of pickers and licks. It’s been said that Swope is “the missing link in country music” -- an accurate description. The man can write a hell of a song. This is a much needed, creative dark country movement all wrapped into a 13 song record. Lucky 13.
“Five Chambers Empty,” in all its pedal steel wound glory, tells a connected, commiserating tale of death and debauchery, set to a perfect country song. It's a dark tale of suicide and drinking, partying and thinking.
“The Wolf” is another murder ballad told in a way only Swope can muster. His vocals are murky at times, carrying a stressed out vibrato that’s equal parts self-inflicted and forlorn, all the while telling the hapless story of a sleep walking murderer and the “nice guy down the street” – brilliant stuff. Another highlight is a meretricious version of Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” with a distinct lyric change in “I thank the Lord that I get stoned.” I’ll take thanking over wishing any day.
Swope’s duet with Molly Conley, “You and Me” is a bonafide throwback to Tammy and George or Johnny and June, a catchy number with a crack dobro/fiddle trade off, lively and boisterous, witty and diverting. Get acclimated to Swope and the rest of the Farmageddon family of bands -- there’s not a bad one in the bunch. (+words: scott zuppardo+)
(+As featured at No Depression 2/28/15+)