There are a lot of records out there. How is one release supposed to stand out from the howling hordes of musicians, hollering for your affections? A solid, well-executed concept is a hands-down, surefire way.
The Story on the Road to Waterloo is a song cycle in 6 parts from manic bluesman Buddy Black and the Ghost Umbrellas, based around a story of two vampire lovers on the road to find a cure and become human again. The Story on the Road to Waterloo was originally intended as a screenplay, but ended up as a folk punk opera instead. It works out well as folk music as it leaves these two vampire lovers to your imagination, free to fill in the blanks with cowpoke country towns, with cattle skulls in the cacti and batwing doors spilling out onto bloody boardwalks.
Of course, a strong concept is not enough to deliver a record; this is music, after all, and must succeed on music's terms. Buddy Black does not disappoint in this regard - his raw and immediate acoustic guitar sketches outline his impassioned vocals, the real star of the show, which is fleshed out with little bits of percussion, electric guitar, harmonica and gang vocals. The accompaniment is sparse and the recording is soundpaper rough, and it works! Think Springsteen's Nebraska, if he happened to be living on the outskirts of Santa Clara, or Woody Guthrie narrating an episode of True Blood. Also, if you like the passion and romance of Tiger Army but wish they were a little less glossy, this is your ticket.
Buddy Black with members of the band Stereoblastula has inhabited the world they were created and brought it to life. This does not sound like some dry prog concept record. Buddy Black becomes a character in the story with a still black heart that is aching to beat. It's personal, as well as fictional. It’s a fine example of an interesting meta-fiction that is also great roots rock.
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