McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a collaboration between Victor Krummenacher (from Camper Van Beethoven) and Alison Faith Levy (from The Sippy Cups). Whilst both have worked together previously, this is their first proper album together.
‘Time For Leaving’ is an excellent debut of classic Americana, incorporating, country, blues and folk, and even a hint of jazz now and then, as well as some dark almost gothic overtones in the well crafted lyrics that makes this a real pleasure to listen to. Some of the darker songs inhabit the sort of territory that is usually Nick Cave’s home ground, but these songs stand up equally well.
The instrumental opener ‘Union City Blues’ (nothing to do with Blondie’s Union City Blue) is an acoustic number featuring guitar, upright bass and drums producing the classic Johnny Cash chug-along rhythm which easily settles the listener into their seat for the ride to come.
‘Come Back Home To Me’ is a folksy country blues featuring some nice violin work by Jonathan Segal (also from Camper Van Beethoven). Alison’s vocals are perfectly suited to this lament for a lost love: -“What did that bird say to you as she flew away? Was she talkin’ about me? What did that train say as it pulled out of the station? That you’d love me eternally?”
This might be an age old theme, but the band still manages to inject new life into it: -”Just close your ears and close your eyes and come back home to me.”
‘Fare Thee Well, Adios & Goodbye’ is a lovely blues number propelled along by some cool harmonica, and features both Alison and Victor trading verses over a relationship break up, he wanting to go travelling:-“Come on baby take a trip...” “…be somewhere else by the break of day.” And she's glad to be shot of him!
“Well come the morning hit the road and don’t come back round here no more.” Both parties unhappy that the other doesn’t share their point of view “You aint got the guts.”
‘Forgiveness’ is a beautiful, stark song featuring acoustic guitar, organ and drums, with the lyric being on the subject of redemption along the lines of the ‘I’ll be good tomorrow’ brigade (of which I am a fully paid up member).
“If I come out of this unscathed, if I escape through with just a warning/ Slap on the wrist. I’ll be a good girl/ I’d be a believer in grace and glory, and Holy forgiveness.”
‘Couldn’t Sit Still No More’ is one of those truly epic blues tracks with classic storytelling, both Alison and Victor again trading verses which detail the break up of a relationship and both giving their perspective of events. Her version being the innocent party in this, and his version that she was less than innocent!
“You allowed me to touch you, though you belonged to another” In the end, neither party comes out the winner, there are only losers as they both ruefully admit: - “We got more than we bargained for coz we couldn’t sit still no more.”
‘I Remember California’ (no relation to R.E.M.’s song of the same name off ‘Green’.) is a wonderful slice of pure Americana, a country based song that focuses on the poor and downtrodden, their lives and losses. Here there is no hope, only pain: -
“By a kitchen window as the sun goes down. A momma’s looking out at the poor tryin’ not to let another tear stream down/ For a baby in arms who’s drowned. Hard lessons they’ve found.”
All in all, this is a great album.Whilst the mood may be sombre, there are moments of levity, and the musical arrangements fit well with excellent lyrics and themes, hopefully ensuring that this CD will not be overlooked. One would be very unwise to do so.