[Review] Nocona – Long Gone Song


There’s a balancing act that prevails in Americana music. It often involves artists straddling the lines of country or rock in order to muddle the lines of what’s conventional in either genre. The unfortunate side effect is that in the process of pleasing several parties (that is, both cowpokes and say, Crazy Horse supporters) the music can’t find a proper toehold and thereby loses its edge.

Of course, there are exceptions to this phenomenon. If and only if an artist truly understands the relationship between roots, country, rock and everything in between is an approach to playing and songwriting that allows itself to be transformative in kicking out the jams.

Enter Americana outlaws Nocona. Their latest release Long Gone Song delivers an unrelenting ode to a country rebellion with traces of punk and East Coast sensibilities. Though named after a Texan landmark, the band’s music is hardly pigeonholed into one particular sound. Rather, they represent what is truly Americana – sounds that inhabit multiple musical facets of the country. This all culminates in a sound that is not only unique but also one that is severely genuine.

Though the content may not be the gospel, the conviction in the hollering verges on something straight out of a chapel.

It’s no doubt that guitarist and primary songwriter Chris Isom believes that more can be accomplished through snarling musical interludes accompanying lyrics of disbelief and angst rather than just the lyrics themselves. From the portentous “Beelzebub Is Still The King” to apathetic “Beverly Hills Blues” Isom’s song craft reflects the extraordinary to commonplace southern California ennui. In many ways, Isom’s songwriting incorporates his Texas roots, his time on the East Coast and a residency in Los Angeles in trifecta of lonestar-bred doom. Long Gone Song is an unrelenting 10 tracks sans lapse in energy – give it a spin and boy, does it show.

More visceral than their work in the past, Isom and wife Adrienne (on guitar) vocally reach the point of what can best be characterized as a sermon inferno. Though the content may not be the gospel, the conviction in the hollering verges on something straight out of a chapel.

Drummer Justin Smith is an incredibly integral part of the process as well, with drums sounding like hellhounds to underscore unquestionably dark material. Annie Rothschild provides some slinky and downright chilling bass whilst Elan Glasser remains a harmonica extraordinaire.

The album cover alone elicits a certain type of discourse that speaks against fatalism. The imagery of a guitar-wielding troubadour that is about to take a crack at an undead foe speaks volumes.

Long Gone Song is the musical equivalent to an evening walk through the mesa with the sneaking suspicion of a dark shroud close behind. Though it may be ominous and foreboding, you wouldn’t dare stop walking for the sheer fact that you might miss out on something otherworldly. I’ve never been to Texas, nor have I been the East Coast, and I’ve only been a Los Angelino for so long. Thankfully, Nocona’s helped me live all three.

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