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25 October 2017

Jailbreak - 'The Rocker' (Family Vineyard)

We haven't checked in with Mr. Chris Corsano for awhile, so this comes a nice a surprise. Jailbreak was a duo of him and Heather Leigh, which put out two releases in 2010 and then that was it; hardly a surprise as they were living on different continents so rehearsal must have been a bit tough. Leigh's pedal steel and vocals would threaten to take over the whole soundstage here if it wasn't for Corsano's thunderous drumming. It's safe to say that there's no other pedal steel player out there who sounds like this, as the strings are drenched in a fuzz pedal, amped-up just to the edge of feedback, and moving in 50,000 different directions at the same time. It would also be safe to say there's no drumming anywhere else like this, except on other records Corsano plays on; together, it's a balancing act that works well.  Yet this isn't to suggest that The Rocker is teetering or restrained; it's aggressive to the max, with building blocks of pure energy, forcing the listener to strain to find the subtleties. 'Brought Down' starts off with solo Leigh for a minute or two before the drums kick in, and there's no going back one this cork is pulled out of the bottle. The vocals are twisted and shouty, enough in the background to be lyrically unintelligible but directly conveying power, wonder and energy. It's reminiscent of hardcore punk, an influence surely felt throughout The Rocker, as if that anger was merged with a free music approach. The flipside, 'Sugar Blues', isn't a huge departure, suggesting that maybe these edits were made out of one massive, epic blowout recording session. The dynamics at play are unified; when Jailbreak shifts they do so together, thus the moments when Corsano drops out (particularly about halfway through side two) are the most dramatic; when he comes back in at the moment parenthetically referred to in this sentence, it's like a massive weight dropping, and manages to incur a jolt of higher-level energy into a record that at this point has been almost a half-hour of being cranked up to (presumably) 10. The sliding strings, when distorted like this, genuinely reminds me of the pick-slides used in a lot of 80s metal guitar bands, which I'm sure is a comparison Jailbreak wouldn't object to. When Leigh hits the higher register vocally, it's like a banshee soaring over this violent chaos, and that world of destroyed possibilities is a beautifully rendered one. The Rocker isn't an easy listen - or rather, it's not a relaxing listen - but it's a rewarding one, and one that may be forgotten already among the prolific output of these two.

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