A couple months ago, I had the extreme good fortune of catching the fantastic Richard “Dickie” Swift in Tucson, opening for Jason Lytle at a pre-SxSW gig. Swift and the boys put on a stellar show (though they outdid themselves a couple weeks later at Modified. After the show, we chatted and he informed me that he had just finished up producing and recording a record by a band called Kissing Cousins. He described the record as the Shangri-Las-meets-Black Sabbath. I was instantly curious.
Thanks to the good folks at Velvet Blue Music, my curiosity has been sated, and well rewarded. Recorded straight to tape using a Tascam 8-track purchased from Jeff Tweedy of Wico, Pillar of Salt makes good on Swift’s description, with fuzzy riffs smoldering under girl group vocals and reverb heavy tambourines, while lithe flutes drift overhead, recalling the dark psychedelic approach of Black Mountain.
The sinister vibe suits the girls well, as singer/songwriter Heather B. Heywood wraps her tales of snake handlers and being “slain in the spirit” – nods to her charismatic Pentecostal upbringing – in plenty of sultry swagger, somehow making Judgement Day sound impossibly sexy. First in the Fire marches with ominous, thundering percussion, while Red Lamb employs shoegaze guitars and a soulful, Berry Gordy approved melody. The record ends with a devastating double shot, Don’t Look Back, featuring a finger-wagging, spoken bit that simultaneously sounds like a benediction and slow dance request, and the instrumental Snake Handler (Part II) closes the record with a graceful note of redemption.
With any lucky, the girls will tour a bit more in support of Pillar of Salt. The drive from Silver Lake to Phoenix isn’t that bad, and this stuff begs to be heard live.
You can pick up Pillar of Salt directly from Velvet Blue Music.