The Dead Will Walk, Dear

The National Lights

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The Dead Will Walk, Dear Review

by Jeff Tamarkin

The Dead Will Walk, Dear is one creepy little record. Without ever breaking a sweat or rising above a near-whisper -- not since the Cowboy Junkies came onto the scene has a band gone about its business so quietly and sloooowly -- the National Lights proffer ten songs of death and sex and blood and guns and bodies and bones and water and not much else. Jacob Thomas Berns is the writer and singer whose above-named obsessions occupy the brief songs (the entire album clocks in at less than a half-hour), an all-acoustic affair that finds Berns and Ernest Christian Kiehne, Jr., handling the various guitars and other stringed instruments, with the occasional keyboard tossed into the mix. The only other member is Sonya Maria Cotton, whose delicate harmonies soften up the already-pretty-soft melodies. The characters who inhabit National Lights' tunes aren't necessarily folks you'd want to invite over for brunch: the dude who wants to "Mess Around" is well aware that the messee is underage, but hey, "I guess that's fine," he reasons. And when the singer kills off, well, a whole lot of people in one song or another, let's just say he doesn't get too upset about it. Oddly enough, though, The Dead Will Walk, Dear is actually kind of a fun record, not as depressing as it would seem to be on paper. Had the same stories been told by a death metal band, the morbidity factor would be a given. But Berns and company are so weirdly cheerful in their dreariness, and there's such a warm quality to the seamlessness with which it's all tied together, that these folkish missives never really get under your skin, so to speak. Even as he addresses the lover he's just offed in the leadoff track, "Better for It, Kid," Berns just keeps strumming along merrily, so blasé you figure he must have had a good reason.

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