Album Review – Slackeye Slim “El Santo Grial, La Pistola…”
El Santo Grial is about a man, and a gun. It is a concept or theme-based album that follows Drake Savage, a man torn by religion, told since he was a boy that he was “The Chosen One”, but conflicted by his desire to see proof of a higher power. That proof is eventually bestowed one day in the form of a legendary gun for which the album is named.
El Santo Grial is a masterpiece, exquisitely produced, arranged, and performed. This is a patient, uncompromising album. You can tell time was never introduced into this project as a goal. The goal was to flesh out Slackeye’s vision without ever settling for second best, and that goal was accomplished.
The music is a wild mix of Western, old-school Spanish, gypsy, and cowboy narrative. In some spots it probably is better described as simply poetry with a music bed. Think of the score from the film The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly, with some Dick Dale flair and Johnny Cash imagery. This album is full of textures and layers, yet conveys a tremendous amount of space at the same time. Many of the sounds of this album are harsh and biting–lots of percussion, gong bangs, horse braying–but it is the best mixed and mastered album I’ve heard in years, where the recording concepts become as important of an asset to the music as the words and instrumentation. The sharp sounds, the contrast, and the space is what transports you to the setting where the album transpires: in dusty, gritty, wide open spaces. You get completely immersed into the landscapes this album inspires in the human imagination.
The music, the story, the concept are quite original, but not wholly unique. What makes El Santo Grial wholly unique, and takes it from good to legendary, is the approach and patience. Each track was recorded in the ideal environment to get the desired mood and acoustics: a junkyard, an old mansion in Anaconda Montana, The Museum of Fine Arts down the road in Butte. If a bottle strike was called for, it wasn’t replaced with a cowbell simply for convenience. Slackeye also had the assistance of songwriter Graham Lindsey, who I’m sure had a lot to do with the wisdom captured in this album.
One important question one might ask after listening to El Santo Grial is if any of the songs could work autonomous of the concept. This might be the most important litmus test for a concept album. Though accessibility is not a great attribute of any of these songs, tracks like “Introducing Drake Savage”, “El Mundo, Mi Amigo”, and “Tomorrow Morning’s Gonna Come” are strong enough to work on their own, though every song on this album works better when listened to in context, especially for the first time.
I can’t say enough about this album. It is dark and fey, but a fine example of how patience can lend to quality music whose value is so much more fulfilling, and its fate so much more hopeful than the rushed and safe projects clogging the consciousness these days.
When an album hits me like this, I usually like to take some time an revisit it months later to reasses before making bold claims based on initial reactions, but I feel confident in saying, as an album, El Santo Grial, La Pistola Piadosa is one of the best ones I’ve heard in a very long time.
Two guns way up.
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Slackeye Slim is Joe Frankland
El Santo Grial is available from slackeyeslim.com, in CD form with a free digital download, or as a download only.
Samples can be heard on Slackeye’s Reverbnation Page, and selections from the album will be featured on this week’s Saving Country Music Radio broadcasting Saturday night (6-25-11) at 9PM Central, 10 Est.
June 22, 2011 @ 1:47 pm
This is a very solid effort. I am bummed he wont be touring in support of it. The album in entirety would make a killer show.
Check out my interview with Joe on last weeks Outlaw Radio. We also play 2 tracks from the album.
June 22, 2011 @ 2:17 pm
Im looking forward to hearing this.Dont ever mess with Drake Savage.
June 22, 2011 @ 2:35 pm
This is the best album I have heard in years. I am very happy for you Joe!
June 22, 2011 @ 4:38 pm
Just bought it. I’m currently on “Introducing Drake Savage” and it’s blowing me away. So many styles merging, crazy good stuff.
June 22, 2011 @ 6:17 pm
I’ve only heard “Vengeance Gonna Be My Name” so far, and it was solid. Like you said — Ennio Morricone backing up Johnny Cash in his darker (American) days. It sounds dusty, worn; like it wreaks of tequila, rose oil and gunpowder. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the album.
June 22, 2011 @ 7:48 pm
Wow. From the 30 second samples I hear something epic. Great blog Triggerman.
Martin Luther Presley
June 23, 2011 @ 1:51 am
TEXAS WHORE PLEASER has been one of my favorite albums of the last decade. Can’t wait to get this one.
June 23, 2011 @ 5:58 am
I can’t wait to hear this. And the ability to order the cd while getting the instant gratification of a free digital download is priceless.
June 23, 2011 @ 8:20 am
fuckin great review of an amazing album. after only a coupla days with it i echo every sentiment you express there, most of all how “time was never introduced as a goal”, which to me in this case also goes along with slim not seeking out fame and fortune and mass appeal. feels like he truly made the album he wanted to make without compromise on any front, a foreign concept in today’s music. even if this album isn’t your style you gotta respect that.
June 24, 2011 @ 7:32 am
I haven’t heard anything about this release. Brings me back to the story tellin of Marty Robbins, along with Marty, I have a whole shelf of spaghetti Westurn Albums & concept albums. Sounds like a good one to add to the collection. The Dick Dale flair with Johnny Cash imagry comment made me go listen. Good words Trig…..
Martin Luther Presley
June 26, 2011 @ 8:56 am
I’ve got the album now.
If anyone thinks Triggerman might be exaggerating…he’s not.
September 1, 2011 @ 10:24 pm
This post inspired me to buy this cd, and let me tell you, it is the truth. This album is epic.
July 10, 2011 @ 7:19 am
i couldn’t help but notice how “slim” your archive on slackeye was. only two posts in about three years. one was this review of El Santo, which obviously you enjoyed. what was that word you used? oh yeah “masterpiece”. then there is the other post in your archive. its a gem. a beautiful profanity laced tirade, putting ole slim in his proper place for talking out his ass. so i have only one question. did you guys kiss and make up?
July 22, 2011 @ 4:26 pm
This album is beyond great. I love a good concept album and this does not disappoint. Its kinda like a western version of “The Wall”.
I first heard of Slakeye Slim on the “Southern Independant” compilation, (btw, it is a free download over at http://www.givememyxxx.com ) . His track “Introducing Drake Savage” quickly became one of my favorites. I figured probably the best of the album, but I want to here the rest. Truth is Im not sure which track is the best. I cant stop listening to the thing as a whole.
Thanks Kyle for the tip on where to find the cd. I tried Amazon and it wasnt there. Gotta go Slackeyes website to order, but you get a download in almost any usefull digital format instantly when you purchase the physical copy. Also on the link to the digital only copy Trig provided up top the is a download link for a free EP.
Thanks again Kyle.
November 28, 2011 @ 6:22 pm
i heard a this album everyday since one month,and it gives me the strenght of a horse before i go at work! so thanx slackeye slim!
freddy from marseille (france)
November 29, 2011 @ 5:17 am
I’m a huge fan & supporter of Farmageddon Records NRO Joe Franklin here! I love this release & the amazing collaboration with Joe & Graham Lindsey. Excellent stuff!
2011 Album of the Year – Slackeye Slim’s “El Santo Grial…” « Saving Country Music
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