- 24 Feb 04
Exit Hellsville is the third album from Eamonn Dowd’s motley crew of Racketeers, and like its predecessors, it’s a damn fine example of gravel-voiced country rock.
Exit Hellsville is the third album from Eamonn Dowd’s motley crew of Racketeers, and like its predecessors, it’s a damn fine example of gravel-voiced country rock. Indeed, it’s sometimes hard to believe that Dowd is a Dubliner born and bred, particularly when you listen to the bayou-soaked blues of ‘Never Did, Never Will’ or the Louisiana rockabilly of ‘Nowhere Fast’.
The heroes of these whiskey-soaked tales are as far removed from the braggadocio of cool, clean-cut paramours as it’s possible to get. “The doctor said he’d help me/ But I’m way past my prime/ I’d make love to ya honey/ If I only had the time” (‘Feel It In My Bones’) isn’t exactly the boast of a would-be Lothario. Dowd’s world is one where “revenge is sweet if you can get it” (‘Damage Done’), where his “belly’s full of bullshit/ My head is full of lies” (‘Nowhere Fast’).
Then there’s the blacker-than-soot humour of the Johnny Cash-like outlaw country ballad ‘Down Into Hell’, where the narrator shoots and stabs his way through half his family before moving onto the next-door neighbours.
That said, it’s not all black hearts and double crosses. If you look closely beneath the whiskey-soaked bar-stools, these songs are full of unaffected, unrefined humanity, a kind of world-weary, warts ‘n’ all honesty that’s getting rarer in music. There’s the gentle romance of ‘Come On Little Baby’, the cautious optimism of ‘No Point In Worrying’ and the comfortable happiness of the gorgeous ‘Slip Away’, whose hero has finally realised what it is to be content.
There are no bells, whistles, xylophones nor drum-machines to be found. It ain’t exactly new-fangled and it’s probably not going to find its way onto very many coffee tables, but there is something raw and real about The Racketeers that’s easy to love.