It's unsurprising that a certain strain of country music -- the "high lonesome" sound, that sense of one cowboy alone in the wilderness with little but a guitar -- has achieved such resonance in other musical styles aiming for a sense of drama, from Ennio Morricone's awesome soundtracks to the Fields of the Nephilim's prog-goth explosions. A Small Good Thing's use of that sound and sense bears similarities to Steve Roach's experiment with ambience and twang, Dust to Dust, but where Roach lives in the Arizona desert, the three Good Thing bandmembers live in England, making their capturing of a beautiful, haunting mood on Slim Westerns, their debut album, all the more fascinating. From the opening track, "Godforesaken" -- on which plaintive acoustic guitar plays treated, abbreviated melodies over a vast synth soundscape, infusing everything with echo and depth -- this is clearly not quite Frankie Laine territory, bearing much more similarity with the dark ambient compositions of Thomas Koner or Main, if anything. Slim Westerns' tracks all blend into one another over the course of 50 minutes, and while the basic sound of the album is easily summed up by that first song, it reduces the enjoyment of the disc not a jot; as late-night music, it's downright perfect, with everything from dramatic string parts to soft chimes adding to the album's quiet grandeur. While Mark Sedgwick and Tom Fazzini appear to mostly handle guitar, among other instruments, Andrew Hulme gets definite credit for his keyboard work and careful layering of sounds, which include animal calls and, in another nod to classic country, soft whistling in the background of some tracks, such as "Drowning Light." Song titles like "Gulch," "Heathaze" and "Saguaro" show that the band know their desert signifiers well, but it's the music which reigns supreme here, and quite successfully at that.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett