If the gothic and twisted illustrator Edward Gorey started a gospel group, this might be it.
Buried Behind the Barn sounds like music for an evil carnival where gaunt men in black dusters scour the alleys for gullible bystanders to corrupt. In "Port Authority Band," Slim Cessna sings the melody as banjo player Munly Munly plucks and talks in the background like a doomsday radio announcer just off frequency. "Angel" is more traditional honky-tonk, though the singers' overly annunciated style makes the song more shady sideshow than something that would ever appear at the Grand Ole Opry.
There are just a few moments when the band derails from its track. "Thirteen Crimes" begins in slinky coyness but ends up being so showtune-y by the end—and not necessarily in a creepy way—that it no longer fits the bloody subject matter. And then there's "Earthquake," which gives off a B-52s vibe with its chorus "she's my little earthquake," but that never quite hits the same levels of top-notch songwriting as the rest of the album.
It's narrative songs like "Shady Lane," that really catch fire: when melodramatic vocals are rare, never stifling the stormy zest of the dark and mysterious storyline.
Slim Cessna's Auto Club plays the Badlander Monday, July 5, at 9 PM. $5.