Dirty work boots, graveyards, and the static of a Montana radio wind their way through Goodbye to the Rank and File like hobos catching cross-country rides on freight trains. Casey Neill and co. successfully create a windblown trip through Americana and folk music traditions on their eighth album, blending the literary weight of a short story collection with the warm sizzle of a tube amp.
The band doesn't break any new ground musically with their latest release, and certain songs, like "Guttered," get lost in their own melancholy. The album serves as a satisfying vehicle for Neill's storytelling, however, which is obviously the band's focal point.
Organ swells and tastefully placed electric guitar licks help to evoke bittersweet summertime sentiments on one track and recreate the loneliness of hitchhiking down the rainy Oregon coast with the next. The tone of the album is tied together by Neill's weary voice, which communicates a refreshing amount of grit and purpose. On "When the World Was Young," the notion that Neill has been around to see it all comes off as wholly believable. If the lyrical quality is any evidence, this songwriter acquired his rasp as much from wisdom as from whiskey.
Casey Neill and the Norway Rats play the Badlander Tuesday, March 8, at 9 PM with David Boone. $7.