From it’s first guitar riff there is something urgent and thrilling about Earth & Asphalt. The lead off track is a Birmingham is a cow-punk belter, taking you back to late 80s Lone Justice with, if anything, a little more verve.
If you see Beki Hemingway live, there is a guy always there beside her. Never underestimate him. He’s not just a strummer as Beki sings. Oh no. He’s the husband. He is also an astonishing guitar player.
For me Earth & Asphalt is Randy Kerkman’s finest moment and as a result Beki Hemingway’s too. A first run through took my breath away. Randy’s electric guitar is given free reign and comes across with authority even on the less rocking tracks.
Then there are dobros and pal steel and baritone guitars giving these songs more of a rich resonance than on Beki’s previous work. Beki’s performances are a revelation too. That awesome voice reaches further and has moments when she sounds more Janis than Maria. I am loving it.
The songs? Well I thought their last record Whins and Weather was a songwriting triumph but for me this one is a life work. The lyrics are so poetic, so evocative, so wise in strong songs that have you rocking, waltzing and almost praying that any good American record should.
There is a lot of travelling on Earth & Asphalt. Birmingham and California are even song titles. The travelling though is not just across American and Irish highways. These songs are about the journeys of heart, soul and the ageing of life as well as bodies across maps. For a song about ageing look no further than Shape of My Face. The honesty, the insight and the spiritual contentedness oozes from Beki’s voice.
So here is the blond turning grey
Here is my heart growing more
All of the wisdom I gained
Is worth the tired and the sore
I see the way that nature rearranges
It’s easy to start longing for the past
I’ll watch myself weathering these changes
I’m fixing on the things designed to last
Wonderful…. And this is a record filled to the brim with all that flows from that realisation. It’s very very good!