Jan
21

Review – Some Velvet Evening’s “No Law Against Talking”

January 21, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  11 Comments

With 70 some odd years spent fleshing out the concept of country music, it is darn near impossible to put out a country music project, let alone a neo-traditional one that thrives on going back instead of forward, that is able to find a truly original approach. But Some Velvet Evening, with their use of subtly, sarcasm, and sexual innuendo without sacrificing substance does that very thing.

Some Velvet Evening is the sound of sexual frustration. I’ve been saying that the permeation of irony in modern American culture has killed camp, but No Law Against Talking is a booster shot right in camp’s buttocks. By taking country’s conservative, family-friendly foundations and turning them inside out, yet still staying completely within the confines of them, the duo of Carrie Shepard and John Holk engage you with a mad, sick, but still sweet and simple paradox of sensations and thoughts. Some Velvet Evening splits the creative atom. When you listen to their songs, you are in two places at once, listening with two completely different perspectives that are at war, but at the same time harmonious. It is music parallax.

Their commitment to their sexually subtle songs is deep. If they used this formula just for one or two of the songs, those songs might have been good, but the album concept may have fallen apart. Make no mistake, this approach is a bit, but it is a good bit, executed well, and neither over nor under done. Though not all of the songs employ this bit, they all work within the general framework and theme of the album.

The first two tracks “Shooting The Breeze” and “Ain’t No Law Against Talking” start you down the path of innuendo, but then “Still Have Your Hat” is a rather sweet and straightforward country song, only to lead into the suggestive “Behind The Line”. So much of this album’s effectiveness depends on the song order, and though there are stronger and weaker tracks (as with all albums), the order of this album’s songs is a practice in genius all to itself.

After listening a couple of times through, I had determined it was worthy of a positive grade, but I was going to preface it with a warning that this album is not one you listen to over an over, it’s more like a piece of fine art, where you appreciate the technique and perspective they used and move on because there’s no deep visceral appeal that makes you crave the music in the long term. But I’ll be damned if after listening to this album for a while, the songs really stuck to my bones. Despite the ‘bit”, there is real substance to the music, singing, and lyrics here.

The Louvin-style close harmony approach, supported by excellent ear and arrangement really make the singing of Some Velvet Evening something special. Carrie Shepard has spectacular tone and control to match the natural sweetness of her voice, and John Holk’s soft and smart accompaniments and leads compliment Carrie, along with the sweet nature of the words and themes of the songs. The mastery of the subtlety in the music is what grabs your attention first, but then the singing and songwriting rallies to reveal their music as something to be taken very seriously. The instrumentation is also solid, and appropriate to the “golden age of the Opry” period the music is set in.

The liner notes for this album are sparse, and the internet is no help either. There is a lot of mystery to this album and Some Velvet Evening, and I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t want to know if Carrie and John are an item, or if they’re theater nerds and this is an extension of that world. I just know that they touched on something in No Law Against Talking, and that same “something” is captured just as well in their video for “Shooting The Breeze” (see below).

However, this is one of those albums that the warning needs to be issued that it is not for everyone. Not only will some not get it, some will be vaguely insulted by it. Sarcasm and subtly is for old souls. But on the flip side, the vagaries in which this music works means you could play it for your 80-year-old grandmother or 6-year-old daughter, and they might love it. This really is an artsy fartsy-feeling project, but I beg you, don’t overlook the substance.

As for a grade, give it 1 3/4 of a possible 2 guns up, only held back by a couple of slightly weaker songs, and the great likelihood for misunderstanding of this project.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from No Law Against Talking

11 Comments to “Review – Some Velvet Evening’s “No Law Against Talking””

  • i really like the old 50′s local TV feel to the full of ‘shootin’ the breeze’ video. good song. when i sampled the rest of the LP ‘behind the line’ was a stand out.
    all and all sounds good to me. nice harmonies and some decent musicianship. good one, thanks again, trig.

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  • I keep getting surprised by the quality of music coming out of MI. Although I feel I shouldn’t be seeing as I live here lol

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    • Michigan and specifically the Detroit/Flint area continues to be a hotspot for independent country, and I think it is being done through the strength of the music community. There is a lot that can be learned from what is happening in Michigan right now.

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  • Sweet. I never would have known about this.

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  • In the video, I keep waiting for that SNL style punchline but it’s not there. That makes it like a real song. Great bit!

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  • You are right about this music standing with one foot in each of two boats. Really subtly provocative. Thanks for sharing this!

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  • just bought this CD from CD Baby. looking forward to plugging it in the car CD.

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  • John is a class act, and I miss all the opportunities we used to have to play together. Carrie’s spirit goes a long way to helping the community thrive here.
    great people, great album..and the video always brings back a ton of memories of the classic honky tonk tuesdays here in detroit.

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  • I really like it. Appreciate the heads up Triggerman.

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  • Glad to see you cover this finally… John is awesome. He appreciates and understands music probably better than anyone I know. I had the privilege of taping one of his other projects last spring and was blown away. I saw Carrie for the first time about 3 or 4 years ago at a Honky Tonk Tuesday event featuring the songs of Hank Sr. and thought then she was great so I was pretty happy to see her and John put this project together..

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  • love this CD. it will be plugged into the car CD player until i can at least sing along.
    probably longer.

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