Incendiary young country singer and songwriter Rachel Brooke channels the darkest nights of American Southern music, pulling forth influences from raw, early country singing to Chicago blues greats, vintage New Orleans "jass" bands to old animated cartoons (see video below!), all tied together in the framework of her old-fashioned melodies. It takes a peculiar vision to be able to unite these many different sounds, but Brooke’s pulled off the most difficult task: she’s created a new sound from a pastiche of old music without sounding derivative. Instead her music sounds incredibly fresh, sepia-toned perhaps with the vision of our distant past, but as rough-edged and hand-honed as the best of today’s roots music. She’s quite the paradox: a young songwriter who perfectly embodies the music of the American South, but who lives in the wilds of Northern Michigan. An artist who grew up with parents in a bluegrass band, but who spent her teen years raging away in an all-girl punk band. A shy, soft-spoken introvert whose wall-shaking voice has earned her a place at cutting-edge roots music festivals like Muddy Roots. An icon of underground country music who covers jazz greats like Fats Domino on her new record. But when you sing this well and play like hell, who do you have to answer to anyways?
On her new album, A Killer’s Dream, Rachel Brooke proves she has the chops to be named “the Queen of Underground Country Music” by tastemaker blog Saving Country Music. Playing with a full band for the first time, Brooke cut the whole album live on analog 2” tape. In fact, they didn’t even turn on a computer until the mastering began. Each track was nailed down in a few takes, and it’s thanks to the ultra-tight backing band Viva Le Vox that the music sounds so polished. The songs from the album are remarkably cohesive for having so many influences. “Fox in a Hen House” and “Late Night Lover” drip with the electric sass of the best Bessie Smith and Mae West songs, “Old Faded Memory” (a sweet duet with Lonesome Wyatt of disturbed country outfit Those Poor Bastards) yodels along like a sentimental Jimmie Rodgers number, “A Killer’s Dream” has the kind of rockabilly backbeat that would make Wanda Jackson proud, and “The Black Bird” sounds like it could have rolled out an old Betty Boop Halloween cartoon. The folk revivalists used to search for this kind of raw, haunting music in old 78s, but Rachel Brooke has tapped into these old eerie sounds and creates new music from their dusty pasts.
Rachel Brooke’s American Gothic roots music is the perfect paradox: it sounds like it could have been made a century ago, but it’s music that could only have been made today.