Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South
Limited Edition LP of 1000 with Exclusive Bonus Songs SOLD OUT
Confident and cohesive, the record is a dark treaty on the violent and self destructive tendencies of society at large. Ha Ha Tonka take listeners on a complex tour of the South...This record is spot on, dynamic, harsh but lovely. It’s a novel wrapped up into a record.
“In the hills of life there are two trails. One lies along the higher sunlit fields where those who journey see afar, and the light lingers even when the sun is down; and one leads to the lower ground, where those who travel, as they go, look over their shoulders with eyes of dread, and gloomy shadows gather long before the day is done.”
–The Shepherd of the Hills
Written in 1907, The Shepherd of the Hills, a novel by Harold Bell Wright, is the story of an old, mysterious man (The Shepherd) who leaves the city for a remote hills life. Through encounters with others, he gradually learns to find peace with losses he’s experienced and those yet to come. The novel is an Ozark classic, and comprises the basis for Ha Ha Tonka’s second full length record Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South.
Confident and cohesive, the record is a dark treaty on the violent and self destructive tendencies of society at large. Investigating morality and individual responsibility, Ha Ha Tonka take listeners on a complex tour of the South—through lynchings and mob violence, sacrifice and reconciliation. On the two trails of life, how does your history affect your present, and how much can you change the future?
It’s dense subject matter for any artist, but delivered beautifully on this record by Springfield, MO native sons. This record, driven but contemplative, mysterious but clean, delicate but much more guitar-heavy than the previous effort, is the next logical step in their musical journey—and an amazing step, we think. From the junebug-like humming guitars that open the record on “Pendergast Machine,” to the tent-revival spiritual a capellas complementing several tracks, this record is a product of whence it came. From religion (“The Holy Ghost, Brother. It’s a weapon. I’m walking on the Devil’s backbone” on the eponymously named “Walking on the Devil’sBackbone,”) to retribution (“We know that history will be the harshest judge and we are all condemned,” on “What Shepherds of These Hills”), Ha Ha Tonka tackle bleak material with a sense of lightness and perseverance, and a lyrical sensibility that’s sharp as a tack.
This record is spot on, dynamic, harsh but lovely. It’s a novel wrapped up into a record, and not one of those bullshit generic roots-infected rock ones either. Ha Ha Tonka are authentically authentic. They use their background to write both the present and the future. Which trail you choose to take is up to you.