Charlie Pierce & Choctaw Wildfire
Nowhere (Young Cubs)
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., June 19, 2015
Don't let the Spartan line drawing on the cover fool you. Piano-bashing Michigan transplant Charlie Pierce's second album with Choctaw Wildfire burns with richly layered sonic drama. Alternating between stiff-lipped desolation and inconsolable longing, Nowhere transforms solitary soul crises into Gothic Americana epics writ large across darkening skies. Pierce's calloused barrel-house bluster provides the fulcrum, and his ambitious arrangements give each song its own unique color. "Daggers" summons Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline via the Rolling Thunder Revue with its jaunty, twang-laden take on end-stage resignation. The title track is a wistful shuffle exquisitely accented by Danny Hawk's pedal steel, while "Save His Soul at Last" sidesteps maudlin sentiment to serve up an elongated, weather-beaten take on George Jones' broken man pathos. "Mean" sluices murder balladry through a tuba- and clarinet-infused cabaret jazz arrangement. Pierce's softer side emerges on "Ruby," a bucolic elegy he wrote in tribute to the late mother of a newfound fan. Replete with tenderness and vivid Hill Country imagery, it's easy to hear why the family wound up commissioning this recording.