Mark Sinnis, frontman for cemetery and western band Ninth House, has released an album that contains new compositions, covers and updated acoustic versions of previously recorded Ninth House favorites, countrified even further with honky-tonk piano, electric and slide guitars. Sinnis continues expounding his obsession with the many ways that the concept of death informs and shapes our viewpoints and our lives. The presence of titles like “Sunday Mourning Train,” “Hills of Decline” and “100 Years From Now” suggest this preoccupation with morbid themes.

The title track is a new, melodious narrative, partly spoken, partly sung in old-school country style and relates the melancholy ruminations of someone who spends a lot of time behind the wheel. It features a slide guitar that creates an eerie feeling to accompany the driver’s grim thoughts. Besides his own songs, also included are covers like “Ghost Riders In The Sky” and reinterpretations of other musicians’ works. A fabulous example is “Fifty Odd Hours,” which is a rewrite of the 1950s great antique classic “Sixteen Tons,” by Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Both “Death Song”—borrowed from the repertoire of Sinnis’ first band, the Apostates—and the newly composed sequel, “Departed,” are performed as duets featuring the exquisitely sweet voice of frequent collaborator Randi Russo, whose accompaniment has the effect of emotionally charging Sinnis’ rich, deep vocals to previously unattained heights.

Sinnis never fails to bring up the traditional theme of the ill consequences and the consolations derived from booze, so the 13-track closes the album with “I’ll Have Another Drink of Whiskey,” a barroom style sing-along.

Mark Sinnis has once again released a polished and highly listenable collection of old, new and neatly integrated country, folk and Goth rock featuring his polished baritone, fine arrangements, delicious melodies and thoughtful lyrics that reflect his love and mastery of American roots music.

In A Word: Grand

 

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