All Them Witches 

Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is a touristy hellhole one must run, like a gauntlet, to get to Smoky Mountains National Park. Somehow the Nashville quartet All Them Witches found a remote old cabin on a hilltop there to record their third release, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. In a creative spurt encompassing six days, they managed to produce a record that will be in the running for my personal favorite of the year.

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It's all about mood. A perfect example is how "Dirt Preachers" segues into "This Is Where It Falls Apart," a transition that goes from wailing lead guitar into a nice figure that almost sounds like an organ, along with guitar stripped way down and harmonica. Vocals are spare—the entire record is predominantly instrumental—and the song slowly builds through some tasty drum work back to something of more substance. The album gets heavy here and there, "El Centro" leading the charge, but the band mixes things up. It happens not only where they bludgeon and where they don't, but also in the songs' lengths and how they move seamlessly from track to track.

I'm by nature kind of melancholy. The entire vibe of this record feels like an embrace of that emotion. That, in its weird kind of swampy, Zeppelin IV way, makes me happy.

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