Thursday, August 20, 2020

Songs I Wish One of My Old Bands Had Covered (An Occasional Series)

From their 1986 album In the Heart of the Heart Country please enjoy future Garbage members Butch Vig and Duke Erikson (here doing business as Fire Town) and their fabulous jangly neo-folk rock anthem "Carry the Torch."

Vig and company released that on their own label, and when it crossed my desk at the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, I flipped over it and wrote it up as a Best of the Month (I'd find a link to the review, which is online somewhere, but I'm too lazy; maybe next week if I have more energy). They got signed to Atlantic soon after, and made one album that went nowhere; eventually, Vig got the gig (ooh, I made a couplet) producing Nirvana and the rest is history.

In any case, Heart Country is a great album; you can order it over at Amazon HERE.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Gerry Devine and The Hi-Beams and that is a high compliment!

Captain Al

Jim said...


A lot of the fun of rock-and-roll used to be discovering things for yourself, finding out about a band that nobody else in your school had heard of, or stumbling across a record and wondering where the music had been all your life. These days, when the major record companies have become a de facto monopoly and pop music has blanded out as a result, this happens less than it used to, but it still happens. Case in point: Fire Town's "In the Heart of the Heart Country," a debut album on a small independent label by an unknown band from the wilds of Wisconsin that crossed my desk totally unheralded - and then proceeded to knock my socks off.

As the title suggests, Fire Town's music can be lumped, at least superficially, with that of a lot of other roots-conscious bands, and there is a certain Midwestern-gothic feel to much of it - fleeting images of rainswept highways, deserted factories, and the like. By and large, though, the songs, mostly by guitarists Doug Erikson and Phil Davis, are a lot more resonant and complex than that categorization might suggest.

The twelve-string part on the ragingly beautiful Carry the Torch, for example, doesn't recall the Byrds so much as the idea of the Byrds, and the central guitar riff of Favorite Song, which turns into a metaphor for the relationship being described in the lyric, is so integral to the whole thing that you might not even notice that it's based on a quote from the Yardbirds.

There's just so much else to admire, from the deft production touches on the Creedence-like Rain on You to the way the gorgeous country ballad Secret Heart turns near-symphonic in the most unexpected places. But what's most impressive about the album, apart from its ungimmicky integrity, is Fire Town's serene self-assurance. Clearly, these guys write and play the way they do because they have to, not because they think it's a good career move.

Let me be as unequivocal about "In the Heart of the Heart Country" as I can. There is more intelligence, craftsmanship, and genuine feeling here than in almost any record I have heard in a good long time, and you should do everything humanly possible, short of theft, to get hold of a copy. It's the kind of album that will restore your faith, and not just in rock-and-roll. Steve Simels

FIRE TOWN: In the Heart of the Heart Country. Fire Town (vocals and instrumentals). Places to Run; Carry the Torch; Secret Heart; Rain on You; Heart Country; Favorite Song; There's a Fire; One More Reason; The Mystery Field. BOAT FT 1013 $8.98 (from Boat Records, P.O. Box 3362, Madison, WI 53704).